Beverly Hills, Calif. — ABC’s comedy Black-ish is about a family in which the father, played by Anthony Anderson, who also executive produces, worries that his family is losing touch with is black cultural roots.
“It’s always amazing to me, it’s as if black is a bad thing or something, like we shouldn’t talk about them being black,” said executive producer Larry Wilmore Tuesday at the TCA summer press tour, when asked why so few shows address race directly. “And this show kind of celebrates black more as a cultural thing than a race thing. At the heart of it, it’s a family show.”
Wilmore was joined onstage by Anderson, co-star and executive producer Laurence Fishburne, co-star Tracee Ellis Ross and creator and executive producer Kenya Barris. Highlights from the panel included:
—Wilmore, a longtime correspondent for The Daily Show who was tapped in May to take over the Comedy Central timeslot being vacated by Stephen Colbert, said his involvement with Black-ish will diminish once work begins on his new show, The Minority Report. Wilmore said he will stay with Black-ish until September, helping the writers break the first 12 stories. “Other than be a visible cheerleader, once I’m doing TMR, as I’m calling it, I’ll be full time over there.”
—“The socioeconomics of our country are really more divisive right now than race or culture,” said Barris when asked whether class would play as prominent a role in the series as race. Wilmore talked about affluence, such as that experienced by the family in Black-ish, being something that viewers aren’t accustomed to seeing be experienced by non-white characters on television. Riffing on that topic, Wilmore said, “If you walk into an airplane, and you walk through first class and see a bunch of white people — or, as they call them in the South, ‘people,’ — you know, all you think is, ‘Man, first class is pretty packed today.’ Then if you go through first class and it’s filled with black people — even me, I would go, ‘Are the Lakers in town?’”
—Wilmore said, “Even with Obama, we call him the first black president, but he’s mixed, so he’s really the first black-ish president.” Anderson replied, “Bill Clinton was the first black president.”
—“It does always change through the years,” said Wilmore, who co-created The Bernie Mac Show years ago for Fox. “It was no big deal to have black sitcoms on TV — The Jeffersons, all those shows. Then it kind of got segregated and it seemed like they were all ceded to UPN. It was kind of like, ‘What’s going on with that?’ I called it the Negro Leagues.” He added, “Now we’re a novelty all of a sudden.”