On-set production photo from the Feb. 24 episode of “black-ish”; ABC/Patrick Wymore(NEW YORK) — The fictional Johnson family on black-ish has left viewers in stitches with their take on being black and successful in America, but the ABC sitcom, now in its second season, isn’t afraid to take on controversy — after all, race is front and center here.
Anthony Anderson stars as high-level ad executive Andre “Dre” Johnson, who worries his privileged kids are out of touch with their roots and only “black-ish.”
The Johnson family dynamic played out on the TV show is familiar to Anderson, who serves as an executive producer on the show.
“My son came to me at 12 years old and said he didn’t feel black,” Anderson told Nightline. “And he and I had to have a conversation about his blackness and I understood where he was coming from.
“My family is still living in Compton and in Watts,” he continued. “And him seeing how they live and juxtaposed to how he’s living his lifestyle and what he sees going on with young black men around this country and that’s not his experience.”
On the show, Dre struggles to keep it real in his household along with his wife Rainbow “Bow” Johnson, played by actress Tracee Ellis Ross, who brings a different background.
“I bring all of myself to Bow, but Bow’s circumstances and experiences are not the same as mine,” she said.
At first, Ross said she was worried about the show being called black-ish, but now, she said, “I can’t think of it being called anything else.”
“What can it be called? What’re you going to call it? ‘The Johnsons’? My reaction to it is exactly what our show does,” she said.
It’s not just the show’s title that’s controversial. The show has tackled the N-word, and this week, there will be a hot-button episode entitled “Hope” that deals with police brutality and how to discuss it with your kids.
Anderson said he has talked to his own kids about the police and race.
“I said to my son, ‘One day it’s going to be thrown in your face how black you really are, and hopefully I’ve prepared you with the tools to deal with that when that happens,’” he said.
It’s something he said he has learned from personal experience.
“I’ve had my run-in, on the receiving end of a Billy club, just from walking down my street not even in the middle of the night — 7:30, 8 o’clock,” Anderson said, adding that while the police were looking for drug dealers, he was just a theater kid and, “I’m coming home in dance tights from the high school for the performing arts and, you know, tap shoes in my bag, but, you know, they wanted to prove a point.”
Laurence Fishburne, who plays Dre’s father Pops on the show, sees black-ish as an opportunity to launch a discussion.
“We talk about Trayvon, we talk about Freddie Gray, and we talk about Eric Garner, we talk about Sandra Bland,” Fishburne said. “We mention all of these people, we mention all of these incidents, because this is a conversation we’re having in our country right now.”
black-ish airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
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