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Watch: ABC’s ‘black-ish’ takes on police brutality in an episode that makes its series creator ‘very nervous’

‘black-ish’

Appearing in a scene from the “Hope” episode of ABC’s “black-ish” are, from left, Laurence Fishburne, Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Marsai Martin, Marcus Scribner, Miles Brown, Yara Shahidi and Jenifer Lewis.

(Patrick Wymore / ABC)

ABC’s “black-ish,” which has already put its edgy comedic spin on controversies surrounding racial identity and the N-word, is taking on a volatile topic that could land it in hot water: police brutality against blacks.

The episode, which airs Wednesday, pulls no punches in lashing out against police, and underscores cases in which unarmed black males have been targeted and killed at the hands of law enforcement.

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But the installment, which was written by series creator Kenya Barris, also aims to bring more nuanced perspective to the furor surrounding numerous cases of police abuse around the country.

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Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross debate the merits of the justice system on “black-ish.”

The episode may draw the same kind of heated reaction from law enforcement that has greeted celebrities such as director Quentin Tarantino and singer Beyonce, who have expressed outrage about police brutality against African American males.

Said Barris: “I’m very nervous about this episode -- the most nervous I’ve ever been. I worry about the comedy. I had to do a balancing act to show that we are not trivializing the issue, but we also didn’t want to politicize the show.”

He said the different characters in the episode will express different points of view, but the main message will be clear: “It’s hard not to say there is a problem. Something does need to be changed.”

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The show centers on a multigenerational African American family dealing with living in a predominantly white, upper-middle-class community.

The episode, titled “Hope,” kicks off when the youngest kids in the family ask some tough questions about a highly publicized court case involving alleged police brutality and an African American teenager. The parents of the kids, Andre “Dre” Johnson (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross) are conflicted on how best to handle the questions.

Dre’s father Pops (Laurence Fishburne) is furious, calling the police “damn thugs.”

Dre responds that only 92% of police are thugs: “The other 8% are advisors on ‘Law & Order’ episodes.” (The line is an inside joke: Anderson used to star on “Law & Order”).

Despite the volatility of the humor, Barris said ABC has given the episode its full support: “They have been universally positive.”

Twitter: @gebraxton

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