Interview with black-ish Creator, Writers & Cast
From the moment we sat down with the writers of the new ABC show black-ish one theme was central the whole interview was that when Kenya Barris created this show he wanted it to be one that all families could relate to, despite the title being “black-ish”. I was invited to an all expenses paid blogger trip with Disney and ABC Television, as a part of the trip we had the opportunity to interview writers from the show, the entire cast of kids and show creator Kenya Barris.
Our first set of interviews involved one of the writers from the show – Lindsey Shockley. The first question asked was about their favorite episode of the show.
My favorite episode was “The Nod” episode, it’s where Dre realizes that Andre Jr wasn’t identifying with things he felt he should as an African-American teen boy.
Another blogger chimed in saying that she really loved the “Spanking” episode and how it reminded her of her own family. That’s when Lindsey shared that a lot of the other writers on the show had the same experience of being spanked when they were kids but not spanking their own children. She said they knew that it would be an episode that everyone could relate to.
Next question was about the “fantasy sequences” in the episodes and if they would be in all the episodes or just occasionally.
Lindsey: Kenya Barris had the fantasy sequence in the first episode where the tour bus drives by their house and the guide says ‘Look it’s a real life black family,’ once they hired writers they wanted to keep those in each episode so viewers of the show could get insight into Dre’s vivid imagination.
Every week the writers go around the table and share real life family experiences so they serve as ideas for the show. Even for the upcoming episode tonight Kenya drew from his own personal experiences with his kids and when he took them to a restaurant he grew up with and loved as a child growing up. Every week we try to share something really true so the show is relatable.
Where did the whole idea come from in the scene when Zoey came to Rainbow to talk to her about a problem and she missed the whole thing?
Lindsey: That was one of those things that came from out writer round tables. One of the writers shared how her daughter came to talk to her about a problem in school and she was so surprised she started day dreaming of how proud she was and then realized she missed the entire conversation. Her advise to her daughter was to repeat it again and they would talk it over piece by piece so it wouldn’t seem like she wasn’t listening the first time.
Our second set of interviews included talking with the kids from the show. The cast includes Marcus Scribner as Andre Johnson Jr, Yara Shahidi as Zoey Johnson, Miles Brown and Jack Johnson and Marsi Martin as Diane Johnson. When the kids walked in they were excited and ready to talk to us about the show.
What’s it’s like working on the set?
Yara – I love working with all these veteran actors, it’s so much fun. The best part is that it doesn’t even feel like work. I woke up today and was telling someone oh wait I have to go to work today? Oh ok, then I got on set and I was having a dandy fun time. It doesn’t seem like work at all.
Marcus – Yeah like Yara said it’s just an amazing experience working on the set with these actors. I come to the set and learn something new from them each day. Lets be honest he says, these are comedic geniuses (laughs).
Marsi: They are like our mentors in acting now. It doesn’t feel like working, everyday on the set it feels like we’re family, like we’re really a family. Acting with Anthony, Tracee, Laurance, it feels like a real family. We bond like family. She ends by sayings, together we’re unstoppable!
Do you have a scene or episode that was your favorite?
Group: The Pilot – Marcus adds, it was a new experience of us all working together and bonding and learning about each other. I really liked that experience.
Yara adds she really likes ‘The Gift of Hunger’, although she hasn’t seen it yet she loved filming the fantasy sequence from that episode. (Be sure to tune in tonight 9:30 PM EST to check out that episode. You’re going to love it.)
Are your characters on the show anything like your are in real life?
Yara – I’m nothing like Zoey at all. I like reading books and I usually always forget to get my phone. Sometimes I forget to tweet about the show, so I wouldn’t say I was like Zoey at all. Fashion wise I would say I am into fashion though.
Marcus: I play lacrosse which is similar to field hockey. I feel like I am close to my character Andre Jr.
Miles: I’m very close to my character in real life.`I like playing sports and having fun like Jack.
Marsi: Like my character Diane, I am very much into school and being smart. I love social media. I love the computer a lot. I am always on the computer learning and on social media. I am kind of quirky. I am an only child, so this is my first experience with having siblings and I really like it.
When asked about their family and friends they all responded by saying they had lots of family support and it’s true. All the kids had one parent in the back of the room listening to everything. Be sure to check for my post from them. They shared lots of great information from the parent aspect of having a child that’s acting. Marcus even shared about how his grandmother who worked in sales would tell people about his show all the time. Some of them are even still in regular public school, so they still have their same friends to keep them humble. They were all funny and so much fun to chat with. Even when we saw them the following night on the red carpet for Big Hero 6 they posed for a picture with us.
Kenya Barris walks in towards the end of the interview after taking care of some filming on set. Marcus shouts him out and the room explodes in applauds, he smiles and says “I was not expecting this!” The first question for Kenya is to define the word ‘black-ish’.
Kenya- I think for me the world is a lot more homogenized than it used to be when I was growing up. I grew up in Compton and for me, my kids aren’t growing up like I did and how I use to think it would meant to be black. My kids aren’t living like that, they are a little bit black-ish and they are little bit less than what I thought being black was and when I would look at their friends who aren’t black, they were a little bit more black than my kids are. I just think we are just a blend of what America is instead of being black, white, asian or any other race.
Which of the stories are based on your family life?
Kenya: Which one? Huh, there are so many. The show is really about my life, Laurance, Anthony, all of our lives. We all share about our family experiences and use it to create the show. I have a son he thinks he’s Jack. It’s an amazing blessing to see a show come from my life. My wife’s name is actually Rainbow, I think it’s fun for them.
About KENYA BARRIS: Creator, Executive Producer
As a writer, Kenya Barris is known for his quick wit and unabashed sense of humor. Barris started out as a writer in 1998 and has worked on several television shows, including CBS’s “Listen Up,” The CW’s “The Game” and “Girlfriends,” and Fox’s “I Hate My Teenage Daughter.” He has also sold a number of pilots, including “America’s Next Top Model,” which he co-created and is currently shown in 49 countries with 21 internationally-formatted offshoots, as well as a ten-part mini-documentary music series entitled “Music Love” for Warner Brothers, that he is directing and executive producing with Michael Rapaport. The most recent projects that Barris wrote and created include, BET’s “The Start Up,” starring Diggy Simmons, and “We Got Next,” Hulu’s first half-hour comedy series. “black-ish” is loosely based on his own life. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Barris is married with five children and currently resides in Sherman Oaks, CA.
black-ish airs on ABC, Wednesdays at 9:30 ET / 8:30 CT. You can also live tweet with the cast on Wednesday using the hashtag #BlackishABC
- Blackish (astoldbyantoinette.com)
- ABC’s ‘Black-ish’ says yes to spanking stance in latest episode (thegrio.com)
- Andre spanks spanking on ‘black-ish’ (community.ew.com)
- How “Black-ish” Reflects My Own Experience As A Black Person In America (buzzfeed.com)