Before becoming the executive producer of the hit ’90s TV series Smart Guy and Sister, Sister, Suzanne De Passe was an executive at Motown Records working with Berry Gordy, Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, and the Commodores.
In a rare interview with Variety, De Passe spoke on her early days as an executive where she shared how she met Berry Gordy, convinced him to sign The Jackson 5, and “never [really] left working for him” despite her transition into film and television. One of her notable feats was co-writing 1972’s Lady Sings The Blues.
“Because I was sort of the Swiss Army knife of the company, a lot of the [artists’ appearances on television], even if I wasn’t there in person, I was involved in what song they’d sing and all that stuff,” said De Passe about her career’s evolution. “But I loved the experience of being on a million television sets and being part of creating a lot of what Diana Ross was doing — I was head writer on [the Jackson 5 TV special] “Going Back to Indiana,” I was one of the writers on “Diana” for ABC. But it wasn’t really linear, maybe more like a bowl of spaghetti, you know?”
De Passe’s entertainment company is still very active with three announced projects in the works and a slew of others in discussion.
The 75-year-old is producing the forthcoming Marvin Gaye biopic in conjunction with Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine, and Alan Hughes. The film is projected to release in 2023. De Passe also shared that a series based on 1975’s Mahogany, which famously starred Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams, is in the works with Lee Daniels’ company. However, no details on its release date or cast have been announced. Additionally, she and Kerry Washington’s company are working on a film for Netflix based on the life of renowned South African singer Miriam Makeba.
Yet, when asked of an autobiography or biopic about her own life, De Passe expressed, “Both things are supposedly in the works. I am the laziest person that you have ever met in your life when it comes to my story, but I do have the bones of it — I’m a reluctant writer, but I am one!”