During the 20th celebration of the Essence Festival, held in storied and cultured New Orleans, actor and funny man Anthony Anderson discussed what it really means to be black.
His conclusion? There’s no real answer to that question. And that’s exactly what his new sitcom, Blackish, slated to appear on ABC, explores.
In the show’s pilot, which was screened at the New Orleans Convention Center on Thursday, July 4, Anderson, who plays the patriarch to his picture perfect six-member family, navigates life as a black man living the proverbial “made it” lifestyle. He has a beautiful wife, played by Tracee Ellis Ross, a great job as the “urban” director at an advertising firm, four hilarious children, and an outspoken father, Laurence Fishburne, who trails some welcome black rhetoric realness from his Furious Styles days to his new gig.
That is, if Furious Styles lived in Beverly Hills and was trying to keep Tre rooted in blackness.
Audiences get to watch Anderson hilariously try to keep his family grounded in his version of black culture. The result? An authentic, funny, but eye-opening look into the lines affluent black families have to walk when it comes to assimilation.
Like that time Anderson’s real-life son asked him for a Bat Mitzvah to be like his Jewish friends — a scene we get to see played out in the pilot episode.
GlobalGrind got a chance to ask Anderson about those delicate cultural nuances after the private screening.
“There were no reservations in us creating this show and doing this show,” he said. “You know… it’s my life. I can only speak to how I live my life and what I’m doing. And if you’re entertained by that and the stories I’m telling about what I’m doing, then we’re winning.”
Anderson, who co-created the show with long-time friend Kenya Barris, based a lot of those “blackish” moments — like the disappointment of their sons playing field hockey instead of basketball — on their real lives.
“On this show we are dealing with me teaching my children to see no color but be who they are. My son came home and said ‘I don’t feel black.’ It’s like what do you mean? You’re black. I’m black.”
But don’t get it twisted, Anderson claims that he’s not trying to police anyone’s blackness — a contradictory if confusing statement once you see his character tell wife Rainbow that she’s not black because she’s biracial.
“People who haven’t seen the show have come up with their own connotation of what they think the title means. By no stretch of the imagination are we trying to define what black is,” he told GlobalGrind. “If you watch the pilot, there is a scene where I say ‘I’m raising a black family, not a black-ish family.’ That is the reality in which I live. So I’m sharing the stories and the honesty that we are talking about.”
“It’s not our place to define what black-ish is. It’s who you are. I can give you what black-ish is in my world: Everyone in this world, if you love Motown, if you love Micheal Jackson…if you love Jay-Z or this or that. You might be black-ish, just in terms of what our culture has done globally. With music and with fashion…in terms of the arts. Every culture has taken a piece of what we do and has made it apart of their own, thus making them black-ish.”
He continued, saying that what we’ll see on the sitcom aren’t necessarily black stereotypes, just real-life experiences.
“I don’t know what stereotypes there are in this show. It’s a successful, strong, black family. If that’s the stereotype, then I want that stereotype all over the TV all day everyday. We are just trying to bring back positive black television.”
Blackish will hit television screens this fall. Watch the trailer below:
PHOTO CREDIT: Essence Media/Chris Mitchell