Emmy voters officially joined America’s ongoing conversation about racism on Thursday by acknowledging “black-ish” — an ABC comedy that has sought to tackle hot-button issues with humor and heart, without sacrificing laughs in the process.
“I think people respect the authenticity which we have for ourselves and the truthfulness in the way we tell our stories,” Anthony Anderson, star of “black-ish,” tells CNN. “I think that resonates with them and that’s what they respond to. They responded to it by giving us this nomination.”
The plaudits for “black-ish” come during a breakout year for the sophomore comedy, which has made a cozy home among other family sitcoms on ABC’s Wednesday night lineup. Like poster-child-for-progress “Modern Family” before it, “black-ish” rose to success in Season 2, in part, by daring to take on cultural lightning rods rarely seen on broadcast TV comedies since the days of producer Norman Lear and shows like “All in the Family.” (Notably, NBC has offered its own topical comedy with an African-American lead, “The Carmichael Show.”)
One of the season’s most compelling episodes, entitled “Hope,” saw the Johnson family inside their living room for a night of tough TV and tougher discussions as they waited to see whether a police officer would face charges for the assault of a black man.
With their kids around them, Dre (Anderson) and Bow (Ross) had to navigate a conversation with more questions than certainties, especially as the couple themselves seemed to agree on little. (“Why must you always advocate for the devil? He doesn’t need help with his legal team,” Dre jokes at one point, as his wife attempts to explain her less radical stance.)
“Hope,” which managed to find many laughs despite its serious subject, stands as an example of the material that got its viewers thinking — and talking.
“It was a show that struck a chord, more so than any other show that we’ve ever done,” Anderson says. “And we look at what’s going on in the country now — with gun violence and police brutality and the senseless deaths that have been happening and the innocent victims that are a part of that and no one being held accountable for it. We’re right on time with what we’re doing. We’re right on point with what we’re doing.”
With showrunner Kenya Barris at the helm, Anderson says the goal is always to “tell the stories of our community and be truthful to ourselves.” For its part, ABC has been “supportive” of the stories “black-ish” wants to tell, says Anderson. That included, a not-easy-to-show-on-broadcast-TV episode about Dre’s youngest son being suspended from school for using the n-word during a talent show.
“It means the world to us to tell (the) stories we’re telling on broadcast television so the world can see them,” says Anderson. “It’s a beautiful time and a beautiful thing to be a part of this rocket ship we’re on right now.”
Writers for “black-ish” are back at work crafting scripts for Season 3, which Anderson says, will build upon the season finale reveal of Bow’s pregnancy.
“We have some great stories … hold on to your hats. That’s all I can say,” he says.
Emmy voters, it seems, will be more than ready-ish.