KEEP­ING IT REAL. MOSTLY.

Los Angeles Times - - THE ENVELOPE - By Sarah Rod­man cal­en­dar@la­times.com

Get An­thony An­der­son go­ing and the vol­u­ble “black-ish” star will keep on go­ing. The ac­tor, who also serves as a co-ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer on the ABC se­ries, re­ceived his third con­sec­u­tive Emmy nom­i­na­tion last month for por­tray­ing pa­tri­arch Dre John­son.

We re­cently sat down with An­der­son to talk about how “black-ish” man­ages to find a bal­ance be­tween se­ri­ous, top­i­cal is­sues and laugh-out loud funny fam­ily mo­ments and how the clas­sic Nor­man Lear sit­coms of the ’70s serve as a guide.

I wanted to talk first about Dre’s evolution be­cause I’m proud of Dre.

Has there been? Please share with me.

He is start­ing to think of oth­ers be­fore he thinks of him­self, some­times.

Oh, well, I have you fooled. Dre has you fooled.

For me, the real piv­otal thing was when Zoey (Yara Shahidi) went to look at schools, and you and Bow were just like, “Oh, God, our baby is go­ing away.” But even­tu­ally you came to your senses, which Dre of­ten does, but I feel like he comes to his senses sooner and with more en­light­en­ment this sea­son. Is that just nat­u­ral evolution?

With that par­tic­u­lar episode, he had to have some sen­si­bil­i­ties and be sen­si­ble and sen­si­tive to, you know, his baby, his first-born, his best friend leav­ing the nest, and him not want­ing her to fly far away from that nest. So yeah, it is a nat­u­ral evolution.

I love that, over the course of the show, you and se­ries cre­ator Kenya Bar­ris have drawn from your real lives. Do you have to run those ac­tual ex­pe­ri­ences past your fam­ily be­fore you write them into the show?

No, I don’t. And the rea­son I don’t have to run it by them is be­cause my chil­dren, their pri­vate school is paid for be­cause of our show, pri­vate high school and pri­vate col­lege, and —

So they don’t get to com­plain.

They don’t get to com­plain at all. I mean, they live a life of priv­i­lege be­cause of “black-ish.” But there was one thing that I had to go out and ex­plain and apol­o­gize for my son, and it was the sex talk episode where Bow walks in on Ju­nior plea­sur­ing him­self. And, you know, since the show is based on my fam­ily and Kenya’s fam­ily, when my son went to school, he was ridiculed a bit, poked fun at a bit be­cause of that. They’re like, “Oh, man, your mom caught you?” Well, then I had to go on and con­fess that it wasn’t ac­tu­ally my son who was caught; it was me that was caught at my son’s age. And so I just put it on him on the show.

Like a good fa­ther would.

My mom walked in on me and I thought that would be an in­ter­est­ing story to tell from the kid’s per­spec­tive, so I put it on An­dre Jr. So I had to go out and ex­plain to the world that my son, Nathan, was not caught plea­sur­ing him­self. It was ac­tu­ally his fa­ther.

You guys have been able to walk a line be­tween things that are ab­surd and wacky and even fan­tasy-type se­quences with some re­ally grave stuff, which, of course, Nor­man Lear was do­ing back in the ’70s. Is that some­thing that has to be tin­kered with or does it come as nat­u­rally as the wack­ier el­e­ments?

It comes nat­u­ral. We don’t have to tinker with much. No mat­ter how wacky or how ab­surd we get with some of these sto­ries and some of these fan­tasies, it’s all grounded by the ac­tors that we have, you know, es­pe­cially in Lau­rence Fish­burne and Jenifer Lewis. And, you know, Kenya is a huge fan, as my­self, of Nor­man Lear. Those are the shows that we grew up watch­ing — “All in the Fam­ily,” “Good Times,” “The Jef­fer­sons” — they were poignant and had a point of view and had some­thing to say, whether you agreed with it or not.

There’s a fear­less­ness to it be­cause you have to walk a cer­tain line and some­times the top­ics aren’t funny, but you man­age to find it on either end. Once it’s done and in the can, but be­fore it’s aired, is there any trep­i­da­tion about what the re­sponse will be?

We can’t con­cern our­selves with that, you know? We sit on Stage Four and Stage Five at ABC Stu­dios and we do what we do. The sto­ries and the sub­ject mat­ter that we deal with, we leave it all on the floor and we leave it up to the pub­lic to en­joy it or de­bate it or what­not. But there’s no trep­i­da­tion at all. We come from an au­then­tic place and I think that’s what res­onates with our au­di­ence.

‘We leave it up to the pub­lic to en­joy it or de­bate it or what­not.’ — AN­THONY AN­DER­SON, about view­ers’ re­ac­tion to his sit­com’s some­times se­ri­ous ma­te­rial

Kirk McKoy Los An­ge­les Times

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