This story about “black-ish” previously appeared in the Comedy/Drama/Actors issue of TheWrap Emmy magazine.
Kenya Barris’ “black-ish” has delved into some thought-provoking issues, from police brutality against blacks to President Trump’s election, but none have quite shifted the dynamic of the Johnson family as much as the end of Season 3. A new member of the family was born, a baby boy named Devonte; 17-year-old daughter Zoey (Yara Shahidi) made plans to go off to college — and Diane, one of the family’s 8-year-old twins, started getting downright strange.
All three issues tested parents “Dre” and “Bow” (Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross), and kept viewers on their toes as ABC’s hit comedy heads into Season 4.
Let’s start with Zoey’s departure for college, which happens to coincide with Shahidi’s admission to Harvard this fall and the green light for a 13-episode spinoff called “college-ish” to air on ABC sister network Freeform in 2018. “Dre may struggle with his favorite child being out of the house, but he finally got to have the son that he always wanted with Devonte,” Anderson said. “One kid is leaving the nest and a new one has entered, so I’m pretty sure that there will be some growing pains coming with the new child. But Dre’s a little bit more mature now as a father.”
Tracee Ellis Ross, however, doesn’t feel like much is going to change despite Zoey’s absence. (Then again, we suspect that Marcus Scribner’s Junior, the couple’s 16-year-old son, is really her favorite.) “I don’t think she’s going to disappear,” Ross said. “I think it’s going to be a gentle transition, which is one of the things that’s going to allow our show to keep evolving. One of the things that’s lovely about our show and that gives it legs is that the basis of the show is what it is, but there’s things that can evolve and change without changing that — that we’re a family comedy.”
Speaking of evolving and changing, “black-ish” fans are getting to see a little more of one of the Johnson twins, Jack and Diane, than they probably bargained for. Quite frankly, we’re a little worried about Diane (Marsai Martin). We started off the series assuming Diane was just another highly intelligent, sweet kid, but as the seasons progressed we all began to see that there was something a little off about her.
“I don’t know what’s going on with Diane,” said Anderson. “She’s evil.”
Added Ross, “I’m afraid of her, Bow is afraid of her — I think both her parents are a little bit afraid of her. She’s an old soul, but I don’t know what’s going on with her.”
Despite all the changes occurring on the show, Anderson said that he and co-creator Barris wanted “black-ish” to remain honest and humorous even as it delves into social commentary by having the family confront real-life situations head on.
“We wanted all those things to happen and for it to resonate with an audience after the show aired,” he said. “We wanted our show to be water-cooler conversation at work and at schools and in the streets. And that’s what it’s become. We wanted it to be the catalyst for conversation about making change, and I think that’s what we’re doing because of the authenticity and the honesty with which we tell these stories.”
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