'Black-ish' Showrunner Kenya Barris: "We Made America Say, 'Oh, They're Kind of Like Us'"
"I just got the demographic breakdown of our show, and it's not as many black people as I thought."
"I just got the demographic breakdown of our show, and it's not as many black people as I thought," Black-ish creator and showrunner Kenya Barris said during The Hollywood Reporter's Comedy Showrunner Roundtable. "I think the thing is that in a crazy sort of way, we made America say, 'Oh, they're kind of like us.'"
The comedy writer explained why his show, which he compares to Modern Family, is so relatable, regardless of race or demographic, saying, "Really, it was taking from our families, using an aggregate of a really eclectic group of people, and taking their stories. How can we tell the most honest version of this, in a way that hasn't been done before?"
Barris notes the show's post-Modern Family time slot is a great thing but also "the hardest thing, because the biggest note that [the writers] get is, 'That's already been done.'"
He shared a moment he had with Modern Family creator Steve Levitan during last year's upfronts. Leviatan told a nervous Barris, "This is real, and it's going to happen, and you just have to make sure there's a lot of people working for you whose livings are dependent upon what you do. And if you fail, you'll get another chance, but make the best of this."
Barris joined fellow comedy showrunners Jill Soloway (Transparent), Jay Duplass (Togetherness), Robert Carlock (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Steve Levitan (Modern Family) and Alec Berg (Silicon Valley) for the Roundtable, where the writer-producers discussed the profound impact of their shows on their respective demographics.
The full Comedy Showrunner Roundtable can be seen on Close Up With The Hollywood Reporter when it premieres Sunday, Sept. 6, at 11 a.m. ET/PT on Sundance TV and HollywoodReporter.com.
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