Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Disney and my travel and expenses were paid for to attend this event. As always my thoughts and opinions are my own.
The new ABC series “black-ish” is the new hit comedy that everyone is talking about. While on my trip to Los Angeles for the Big Hero 6 Red Carpet Event, I was given the chance to interview the cast of “black-ish” as well as executive producer Kenya Barris who is also the show’s creator.
We also got a chance to talk with the parents of the children. I love how they talked about feeling like a real family. They have play dates on the set and they look out for each other. They talked to us about how each child got started in acting. The kids all have very high goals and plan to go to college. The parents talked about how they try to keep some home life normal. They still have to clean their rooms, do the dishes etc. They talked about how when the script first came out that it created some controversry and that they just kept saying to themselves wait, just wait till you see it. It’s not just an african american show. It’s show that all families of all races can relate to. They talked about how they had access to the writers at any time and that there has always been an open door policy.
Interview with the Cast:
Q: What is it like being on set, working on a show with some amazing actors?
Yara Shahidi: It’s absolutely hilarious on set of course and then being able to work with such amazing comedic veterans is amazing. I feel like I’m learning so much from being on set, but it doesn’t even feel like work and that’s the weird part. I get up in the morning and I was just telling somebody, “Wait, I have work today? OK.” Then I came on the set and I was having a dandy, fun time. It just feels like another enjoyable experience.
Marcus Scribner: Yes. Working on set with all the veteran actors as Yara said is just an amazing experience. It’s awesome everyday to come to work and learn something new from them. I mean let’s be honest, they’re all comedic geniuses. It’s just pretty awesome.
Marsai Martin: They’re like our mentors at acting now because everyday … it wouldn’t feel like work like Yara said because we actually feel like a real family. It wouldn’t be like working, it’d be fun stuff. Acting with Anthony, Tracee and Laurence they feel like a real family. We bond as a family. Together we are like unstoppable.
Q: Do you have a favorite episode you guys have worked on?
Marsai Martin: The pilot.
Yara Shahidi: The pilot was a lot of fun.
Marcus Scribner: Yes the pilot was pretty awesome because it was a new experience for us all working together. I think we all immediately just bonded and it was just awesome going through the pilot together.
Marsai Martin: Especially because that was the first episode getting to know each other.
Yara Shahidi: Yes, and I definitely liked ‘The Gift of Hunger,’ but i haven’t actually seen the episode.”
Q: I have a question, each of your characters have something kind of special. She’s always in technology, he’s very sportsy but really interested in other cultures, really smart, a lot of fun trivia. How close is that to your real personalities?
Yara Shahidi: I have to say I’m not very close character wise. I’m not very close to Zoey just because I’m the kind of person always reading and such. I spent my summer in taking two history classes. I have to be reminded, hey Yara people might want to know that black-ish is coming on tonight. You should probably post it. That’s the kind of person I am. I usually forget my phone. Fashion wise, maybe not the same fashion but I am into fashion. Otherwise, I’m pretty different.
Q: What about sports and culture for you?
Marcus Scribner: Well I play lacrosse. I don’t know if anybody here has any children that play lacrosse or … “Whoo, whoo!”
Marcus Scribner: I love playing lacrosse and I’ve played lacrosse since I was in second grade. I guess that’d be pretty similar to field hockey. I also play basketball, which I guess is a cultural sport. I’m pretty close to Andre. Jr. I feel like most of the conversations that happen in the show have happened to me in real life. It’s just a blast working as Andre. Jr.
Miles Brown: Same with him. I’m mostly close to my character as myself in real life. As we were saying the basketball and the sports, I’m also into those things but as well as acting. I’m also into what happens in my character’s life too.
Marsai Martin: My character Diane, to me I’m pretty social media kind.
Yara Shahidi: We switched.
Marsai Martin: I’m pretty quirky. Well I don’t have siblings. We all have siblings but this is my first experience of having … so it’s kind of new to me. Well I like the computer very much. I’m kind of sporty. I’m pretty sporty. I played gymnastics and I did cheerleading for almost a year and a half. That’s my thing.
Q: I totally adore every single one of you. I love you on television, I love you in real life. You have great personalities. What do your friends and family have to say about all this because I feel like this is just the beginning, this is it.
Yara Shahidi: They’re extremely supportive. I have substitute teachers that I haven’t even been in their class and so like, “I’ve watched the episode and I watched the pilot and I’ve got all your numbers and they’re great.” Like tracking the show. So that’s great. My school did a little thing in the newspaper for it and my family has been so supportive. It’s been crazy. My aunt posted that thing every single week to all of her friends. It’s just been a great experience because everybody in my family is like that’s what we do everyday. What’s on the show is basically our lives and they’ve been letting everybody know, “Oh my niece or my granddaughter’s in this show and she has amazing siblings and you just need to watch it”.
Marcus Scribner: I have to say the same thing. My family is extremely supportive of the show. When the show was like … there was just billboards up and everything like that, my grandmother, she’s in sales and every time she would make a sale, she would start off like, “All right here, look I have this nice necklace, but guess what? My grandson is in the new t.v. show black-ish!” So it was pretty cool watching her make sales like that.
Miles Brown: They’re just all extremely proud of us too because of the pilot, we haven’t actually did an actual t.v. show, like we’ve done probably one episode of a t.v. show before or commercials, but we’ve never done anything as big as black-ish and they’re just extremely proud and supportive. They would just go crazy when we would have a billboard “black-ish! black-ish! Look over there!” My family is amazing! They’re always stopping and stuff. The pilot, my grandparents called me and the were like, “OK, we have it on DVR, we have it on Hulu, all the t.v. shows in our house are on black-ish. Everybody in our family is watching Blackish, if they’re not, I’ll sock them!” OK grandma, OK grandpa. They’re real proud of me. It’s just amazing how we became so big in this. Well it’s been a dream of me being in a billboard and being on an actual t.v. …
Interview with Kenya Barris:
( Everyone claps and cheers as he enters the room)
Kenya Barris: I was not expecting that.
Q: Hi! I love the show. I have five kids and my husband and I were looking at the show like, oh my God, they’re in our house, they know all about us. I wanted to ask you, just generalize and just for everybody can you explain in your definition what black-ish is?
Kenya Barris: I think it’s really just a word that we came up to feel like from our character’s point of view that the world is a lot more homogenized for his kids than it ever was. I know it came … I have five kids too and I know it came from me looking, I’m from Inglewood, Anthony’s from Compton and I looked at my kids and the way I grew up, my definition or what I thought being Black was is not what my kids were living. At the same time, they were a little bit black-ish, lesser of a version of what I thought growing up, what it was for me. At the same time, looking at all their friends, who interestingly enough, primarily are not Black and they were a little bit more of what I thought Black was growing up. It was an additive version of that.
It’s like a little thing, I don’t think there’s a Black or a White kid left in America, they’re all just sort of a blend of everything else. Asian, Latinos, I just think that we’ve all have kind of blended into this sort of homogenized new layer of what America is and that’s what … As a father, he’s dealing with that. His father dealt with something different. It’s kind of three generations talking about where we are today.
Q: I have two questions actually. My first question is what does your wife think of all the references in the show that you’re making to her and to your family?
Kenya Barris: Which ones in particular? Because there’s a lot. Of course, everybody … it’s my life, it’s Laurence’s life, it’s Anthony’s life, I even talked to some of the kids, them, and their mom. My kids … and it’s conceptually based on my family, my son is like … I have a six year old son … he thinks he’s Jack. With the spanking episode, when he didn’t get it, he was like, “Oh, that was a close one.” I think it’s fun for them. I know it’s fun for me. It’s an amazing blessing and a miracle to sit up and see something that sort of came from my life and my wife’s name is actually Rainbow and things like that so I think it’s fun for them.
I think it’s also a little bit … I have a twelve year old daughter and she’s like, “Why am I not in this episode, if I am, am I a boy to you?” It’s interesting at the same time it comes in a little bit of conversations at home.
Q: My second question is I like the fact that you referenced interracial or mixed-race families within the Black community, not a lot of people have done that, I’m from a mixed-race family myself. I think that, like you said, we’re now living in a world where everything really isn’t Black or White squeeze that element in there when it’s supposed to be a Black show?
Kenya Barris: Well I personally … well we’ve been talking about a lot of things .. I don’t see it as a Black show. I see it as a show. I don’t think people look at Modern Family and say it’s a White show. I think it’s a show that happens to have predominantly Black cast members. I think that’s something I want to make sure that people take from this. That’s the world we’re living in. We’re just family. Some families have Black people, some people have Asian or Latino, it’s just a show.. but with that being said, it was not hard for me because I wanted to do a show that wasn’t about a family that just happened to be Black, but about a family that was absolutely Black.
Coming from my wife being mixed, my mom is half Dominican and just my own personal life, it’s a lot of different things. To me, that’s part of what makes us a dual country and I wanted to kind of say that’s more the version of the world that I see it through. I just wanted to say that this is really how I saw the world and ABC has been great in letting us do that.
Q: I’m curious as to how receptive the other networks were when you were trying to shop it around and how great is it to have the support of ABC and especially to follow Modern Family, which is a huge hit.
Kenya Barris: Obviously, it’s amazing. It was scary at first. It was like, oh my God we got this great slot. But then it’s like, oh my God, we got this great slot. It’s great when you get to take the big shot, but when you make it or when you miss it, you lost the game. It’s been hard for shows to work in this space. Luckily we are working. It was definitely sort of scary. As far as other networks, everyone bought it. We sold it to everywhere and ABC was the place we decided to go because … except for CBS, we didn’t go to CBS … but everyone else. Even cable networks, FX and USA and other places, but we decided to go to ABC because Paul was very and Somi and Jamila and Lynn and the people involved in the development of this were saying the only way they wanted to do this show is if we did an honest version of it. So far, they’ve been completely living to the word honest and letting us really tell a story that is as true to what we wanted to do as possible.
Q: Well I hope you do a Shonda Rhimes and have three or four or five different shows.
Kenya Barris: I’m fine with this one right here.
You can watch “black-ish” every Wednesday night at 9:30/8:30CST. Stay tuned for exclusive photos from my visit on the set of “black-ish”