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Couched in this traditional ABC sitcom — about a black couple raising their four (soon to be five) children in a predominantly white neighborhood in L.A. — is sharp commentary on the news of the day: gun control, the N-word, police brutality. Showrunner and creator Kenya Barris knows how to weave these seemingly disparate themes with a finesse that has helped the series receive not only the expected Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild recognition but also a Peabody Award, the Humanitas Prize (for Barris) and the Banff World Media Festival’s inaugural Impact Award. Barris recently answered some of THR‘s burning questions.
The most challenging scene to write this season was …
The conference room scene at Stevens & Lido in the “Lemons” episode. It was a really personal moment that I knew I wanted to be scored for me over a montage, but I also knew it was coming off a joke. The challenge was to balance the comedy with the emotion of the scene with what was going on in our country at that time.
I still can’t believe we got away with …
Having one of our characters, Charlie, have an inner-office fish fry at his desk.
The biggest misconception about Black-ish is …
Is that it’s just another family show. For me, it’s much more of a story about our country.
The person on Black-ish who has the most difficult job is …
Michael Petok, our line producer. We have so many actors, each of whom have huge schedules to balance, and we have the constrictions of a network budget.
The line of dialogue I am most proud of this season is …
“Black people have to wake up every day and believe our lives are going to get better, even when everything around us says it’s not. Truth be told, if you ask most black folks, they’d tell you that no matter who won this election, they didn’t expect the hood to change. But they still voted. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do.” [From the Jan. 11 episode “Lemons.”]
The other Emmy-nominated series that I can’t get enough of is …
If I could switch gigs with any other nominee for a day, it would be …
Donald Glover — that dude is a rock star right now.
ODDS ARE …
As much as nearly everyone lavished praise hands emojis on the success of NBC’s This Is Us — a rare hit that has done a lot for broadcast relevancy — many credit Black-ish with offering distinctive social commentary (typically offered by cable or streamers) on the good ol’ ABC. Heat for Kenya Barris’ family comedy never has waned in three seasons. And, in a time when a lack of diverse voices perhaps is the industry’s biggest source of shame, Black-ish remains a pillar of inclusivity. If a Big Four sitcom were to take the top prize, the wind is in Black-ish‘s favor. — Michael O’Connell
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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