How NAACP Image Awards Host Anthony Anderson Will Address #OscarsSoWhite

NAACP - H 2016
Earl Gibson III/WireImage

The 'Black-ish' star, returning to emcee the annual show, says he won’t "harp on" diversity at the Feb. 5 ceremony: "It’s up to those who feel strongly about this to put their money where their mouth is."

This story first appeared in the Feb. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Black-ish star Anthony Anderson will be returning for his third tour of duty as host of the NAACP's Image Awards, but this year will be a little different. For one thing, the 45-year-old actor won't be able to crack self-deprecating jokes about never winning one himself (last year he finally took home a trophy for outstanding actor for his ABC comedy). For another, there's never been a more opportune time for an awards show celebrating black artists' contributions to entertainment. THR talked to the host about diversity, sensitivity and his own Susan Lucci problem.

Every awards show has a different tone in the room. What do you think the tone of this year's Image Awards is going to be?

We [the writers] haven't been in the room yet. We've only met at restaurants, so I can tell you the tone of the restaurant. It's very upbeat, it's very lively and it's very fun. We've known each other for some time now, so it's just a bunch of friends sitting around throwing ideas out, given what's going on in Hollywood now in terms of [diversity at the] Oscars. It really hasn't thrown us a curveball or anything like that. We will address it. But the tone, for the most part, is just lively.

How are you planning on addressing it?

We're not going to harp on it, because I believe everybody who's going to win an award that night is going to touch upon it. For us to harp on it throughout the show would be like beating a dead horse. But it will be addressed in my monologue at the top of the show — nothing heavy, nothing too serious, other than to talk about the elephant in the room and keep the show moving.

How are you feeling about the way this conversation has progressed? Do you feel like it has been a productive conversation for the industry?

It's only productive if something comes out of it. Right now it's a hotbed for discussion. Everyone has something to say about it. But this isn't new. What everyone is talking about right now in terms of the Oscars isn't new. It's just that someone was very vocal about it and it took on a life of its own. Now it's up to those who feel strongly about this to put their money where their mouth is. What is it that you're going to do other than talk about it? How can we galvanize minorities in this industry to create our own United Artists and not have to depend on someone or a certain group — go out and create this intellectual property, distribute it ourselves. What's the plan of attack?

As someone who's been the host of this show before, what plays and doesn't play with that crowd?

The only thing that doesn't play in the room is something that's insensitive and not funny. Everything else is up for grabs. We are respectful in what we do but we find the humor in anything that we possibly can.

You went through a long period where you were on the verge of becoming the Susan Lucci of the Image Awards. What did winning your first one last year mean to you?

I can no longer harp about being nominated for almost two decades and not taking a win, so it changes that. I was resigned to the fact that I was never going to win one, but it was cool. I look forward to winning more. I look forward to hosting this show for many more years.