The awards season game is one that typically involves a lot of subtlety and false humility. But in its second year as an Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy nominee, the team behind “Black-ish” is stepping up their game.
“We want an Emmy,” executive producer Kenya Barris told a room of reporters during a recent press event. “I always take the backseat, because I think that’s the higher road to take, but I’m going to say it this time. I want it for my crew, for myself and because I grew up watching network television.”
“Black-ish,” the deeply personal series about an affluent black family living in Los Angeles, is one of two broadcast comedies nominated for an Emmy this year (the other being longstanding veteran “Modern Family,” which is not considered a favorite to win). And Barris thinks that this is the show’s time — if only because other nominees will have their own shot.
“I love Donald Glover,” Barris said. “We are friends, I think his show is amazing. I love Aziz [Ansari, co-creator of ‘Master of None’], I love Alan Yang. All of these people, I’m friends with, and they’ll have their time. But the days of network television are numbered.”
It is true that the impact of even a nomination for the “Black-ish” team can’t be understated. Take, for example, star Anthony Anderson’s real-time reaction to finding out that he and co-star Tracee Ellis Ross had been nominated last year, as seen below.
“What you saw that day was pure unadulterated… an honest response,” Anderson told IndieWire this year. “When the names were read, I didn’t know they were in alphabetical order. I didn’t know my name was going to be called first… I’m reading the names and I’m still not understanding that it’s alphabetical order and I’m like when in the hell am I going to say Tracee’s name? When is Tracee’s name going to come up? And then it does. So yeah, it was pretty amazing.”
Even more amazing is actually winning, as Ross experienced earlier this year when she won the Golden Globe for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy — especially given the fact that she was the first black woman to win the award in 35 years. “I have to be honest with you, as a person of color in this industry, the assumption of awards is not one,” she said. “That is just not a reality. The surprise of it, is the reality.”
The creation of “Black-ish” was the result of a simple dinner meeting between Barris and Anderson, who had been trying to meet up together for a while, as they had the same manager. “We talked about the landscape of television and what was missing for us in terms of shows that we watched growing up,” Anderson said. “Kenya and I are huge Norman Lear fans, ‘All In The Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons’ and ‘Good Times’ and shows like that. We’re like, yeah, we need to get back to that. We need to get back to social commentary through a sitcom and have it mean something and have the family have a point of view.
“We just sat back and started talking about our families and our history and us both being first generation successful. Him being from Inglewood, me being from Compton. All of our kids in private schools and the trappings that come along with being successful,” Anderson added. “And being the only African-American family that lives in your neighborhood and all of that. So that’s what the conversation was and we sat there for a couple of hours and a couple of weeks later Kenya called me up and said, ‘I think I got our show.’ And that idea was ‘Black-ish’ and here we are four years later talking about it.”
Not just talking about it, but considering it as a potential Emmy winner — which would make “Black-ish” the first black-led comedy to win since “The Cosby Show” in 1985.
“We don’t need the awards to validate who we are, but there is some importance to it,” Anderson said. “And it’s what we put on it. It’s what we put into it.”