‘Black-ish’ Cast on Convincing ABC to Move Up the Show From Midseason: ‘We Were Hopeful and We Were Vocal’

“We felt like this time in particular this show would be unusually important and necessary,” Kenya Barris says

ABC’s decision to reschedule “black-ish” for a fall premiere rather than saving it for midseason came after some “vocal” lobbying by the show’s cast and producers, star Tracee Ellis Ross said Tuesday.

Ross, along with co-stars Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, creator Kenya Barris and showrunner Courtney Lilly, discussed the move during a press conference to promote the upcoming seventh season, premiering next month.

“We all were kind of astonished at the fact that they were thinking about not bringing us back [for the fall],” Fishburne said. “But we were hopeful that we could convince them to take a look at things and reconsider it. And they did.”

“We were hopeful and we were vocal,” said Ross, who also serves as a producer on the series and said she herself had a conversation with ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke to discuss the matter.

“Collectively I think we all felt the idea that the show in years past has been a megaphone or an amplifier of things to talk about in society, culturally. We felt like this time in particular this show would be unusually important and necessary,” Barris said.

When ABC initially announced its fall premiere dates earlier this year, “Black-ish” was scheduled to debut later in the season. That move was quickly reversed, with Burke attributing the decision to the show’s “long-standing history of shining a light on current events and honoring Black voices through the lens of the Johnson family.”

“After speaking with Kenya and our creative partners, we decided it was important to tell these meaningful stories during this moment in time, so we are adjusting our premiere schedule and are committed to doing whatever it takes to bring this series back as soon as we possibly can,” she said in a statement at the time.

“I had a conversation with them and felt that it would be doing a disservice to our audience, a disservice to our community and a disservice to our show to have our voices muted in a time like this,” Anderson said. “And not have the show come back until midseason, I felt was doing that and was problematic for me. And that was my conversation with the powers that be. And everybody was on the same accord.”

The group praised Burke and other ABC executives’ willingness to take input on the scheduling decision.

“I think there’s a lot to be said when someone makes a choice that doesn’t work, people speak up and they make a change,” Ross said.

In addition to the formal late-October premiere, “black-ish” will also return with a two-part animated election-themed special next month. Barris said the special arose as a “happy accident” during discussions with the network.

“We were trying to find a way to still have a presence during an election year … especially trying to get people to rally around voting,” he said. “ABC completely appreciated that and they understood the importance of blackish in the zeitgeist and the culture.

“When the show got moved up, the special was still just as important and we stuck with it, and I think that it was a really really smart move on ABC’s part.”