“Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson has no fear about tackling some of the intense issues facing African Americans on his ABC family comedy.
“We leave it up to the public to enjoy it or debate. But there’s no trepidation at all because we come from an authentic place and that’s why we can dance the dance that we do in terms of the subject matters that we deal with,” said Anderson when he stopped by The Times’ video studio. “When you come at it from a real place and you’re authentic to who you are, who these characters are and what the dynamic of this family is, you can do just about anything and have it resonate with someone. And that’s what we do.”
The Emmy-nominated actor plays Andre Johnson, the head of an affluent family. Anderson is also a co-executive producer on the semi-autobiographical sitcom, which recently wrapped its third season, and has a say in how the show approaches its wacky and grave topics.
“It comes naturally. We don’t have to tinker with much,” he said. “No matter how wacky or how absurd we get with some of these stories and some of these fantasies, it’s all grounded with the actors that we have, especially in Laurence [Fishburne] and Jenifer [Lewis] [who play Dre’s divorced parents].”
The comedy has tackled poignant issues including use of the N-word, Black Lives Matter and the presidential election in the same manner as writer-producer Norman Lear in the 1970s, who was behind topical sitcoms such as “All in the Family,” “Sanford and Son,” “One Day at a Time,” “The Jeffersons” and “Good Times.”
Anderson and creator Kenya Barris looked to Lear for inspiration. They grew up watching his shows and were huge fans of the messages they conveyed — as well as the comedy.
“These were the [shows] that were poignant and had a point of view and had something to say whether you agreed with it or not. And that’s what was so great about those shows and television back then. The point of view that they had and them being unashamed to go where it is that the subject matter took them,” Anderson said.
The veterans on the set also convey those points of view to the young actors who play the Johnson’s four children on the sitcom.
“A lot of the time we find ourselves educating them. When we started [the youngest ones] were 8, 9 years old. We find ourselves giving them history lessons and catching them up on current events and what that means to our community and the community as a whole because they don’t understand some of this. They’re just babies.”
Watch Anderson’s full interview — including his medley of TV show themes and teasers about “The Gong Show” reboot — below.