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Indianapolis producer brought us ‘Buried by the Bernards’

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It shouldn’t be a surprise that Warren Robinson used a little lie to get the Bernard family to meet him in 2018.

Robinson loved to make up stories as a child, and he was good at it.

“I was a big liar,” he said with a laugh.

Robinson had to tell the Bernards he was already planning to be in Memphis, Tennessee, and offered to meet with them for two hours to talk about turning their family’s funeral home business into a TV show.

The Bernards went viral with a commercial that features, among other sights, a man who pops up from a casket. Someone texted the video to Robinson, a producer, and he was hooked.

“What kind of funeral home would do this?” he thought.

Robinson called probably a dozen times before Debbie Bernard called back. She was initially hesitant about featuring her family on a TV show, and that’s when Robinson had to tell his lie in August 2018.

Without a little dishonesty, there might not be “Buried by the Bernards,” a Netflix original series that offers a comedic look inside the family business, R. Bernard Funeral Services. It debuted Feb. 12, and Robinson is the creator and producer.

Robinson started pitching the show to networks in late 2018, but no one would bite. Lots of people told him the family was funny and entertaining, but nobody wanted to actually bring them on.

Robinson had almost given up when Netflix called in late spring of 2019. Contract negotiations took a while — “They are fierce negotiators,” Robinson said of the Bernards — but both sides worked out a deal, and filming began in January 2020. Filming ended the first week of March, one week before Netflix paused operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robinson, a development executive with production company 13Brains, grew up as a creative child but said his “serious, successful” parents didn’t believe in writing or other creative mediums as a legitimate career.

Robinson was born in Indianapolis and graduated from Ben Davis High School. He went to Indiana University and then got a law degree from Howard University. His first jobs were in the entertainment industry, which led to managing artists and consultant work.

“As I’m helping everybody else achieve their creative dream, it was like, man, you still have all this inside of you,” Robinson said.

That professional background, which led to plenty of connections, helped him get into the business as a producer even though, as he put it, Indianapolis is about as far away from Hollywood as you can get.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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