Black-Ish is back and on an all-new day and time!
Anthony Anderson is currently gearing up for the season four premiere of the wildly successful ABC sitcom alongside the likes of Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, Jenifer Lewis, Laurence Fishburne and more.
We caught up with the Emmy-nominated actor, who gave us some insight on his inspiring partnership with State Farm's Good Neighbor Day initiative. The iconic Hollywood star also dished exclusive details on this upcoming season's direction, given the current political climate, his regretful relationship with president Donald Trump, and how he reacted when Ross, his TV-wife, told him of her decade-long grudge against him after they began working together on the show.
Black-ish has ushered in a new age of Black family sitcoms. Speaking of families, What is Good Neighbor Day and why are you involved with State Farm and Good Neighbor Day this year?
Good Neighbor Day was started almost 40 years ago by president Jimmy Carter. He wanted to bring attention to the community straitening itself and rebuilding the community as a collective. That’s what’s been going on for almost 40 years, I should say. For my involvement, it’s what I’ve been doing throughout 40-plus years of my life. Volunteering in my community and my church and things like that and having my children volunteer at an early age, and so now it’s a part of their DNA and that’s what they’re doing, so that’s how my partnership with State Farm happened. There was just some honest synergy there and I’m glad that I’m a part of it. I’m glad that I get to go out and talk about my experiences, my family’s experiences and the experiences of other people and bringing these people together to do this. Seventy percent of people talk about wanting to volunteer and donate their time but only 25 percent of that 70 percent ever do it and that’s because of “How do I do it?” [and] “Where do I start?” “I don’t have money.” “How much money do I need?” What State Farm has done is come up with a website called neighborhoodofgood.com and what you do when you click on to that website, there are several categories that you can choose from: animals, human rights, education, health and wellness. It runs the gamut and you can choose all of them. You can choose as many or as less as you want and then what you do is you just type in your zip code and instantly, all of the programs that you’re interested in will pop up that’s around your neighborhood. So you don’t have to go far, you don’t have to give any money. All you have to do is go down there and give your time and if your time is limited that’s OK. They will take whatever it is that you can give, and that’s what Good Neighbor day is about and that’s what this initiative is all about.
This is the first season of Black-ish that begins during the Trump administration. How will the show handle this new world?
We don’t snatch stories from the headlines and talk about it just because everybody else is talking about something. We talk about stories that affect us and that is organic to the show and the characters and if we find that something is going on in the current administration and the past administration and the administration of the future, if it works organically for us and it’s authentic to who we are and what our show is, then we’ll deal with it. Just because of the climate that we’re in right now, I’m sure that we tackle [some things] coming up in this season, I just don’t know what they are yet.
What was your reaction when Trump said the title of the show was racist?
You know what? I’m almost ashamed to say that I know Donald Trump. Especially when the show came out, those were the words that he used — some of the racist stuff that he said and “Shame on ABC.” I don’t understand how the title of my show, Black-ish, is racist at all. It’s just a title. It’s just a word. I can see if it was a more inflammatory word. I can see if it was directed at someone. I can see if it was pointing the finger and it said this person was at fault — I have no idea why he said what he said, and I even addressed him about it at the White House Correspondents' Dinner a few years ago. He brushed it off. I introduced him to my partner, Kenya Barris. I said, “Don, this is my partner, Kenya. He created Black-ish.” I said, “Do you have anything to say to him about the title of our show?” And he brushed it off. But sometimes people talk just to hear themselves talk.
Back in 2000, you were in Romeo Must Die alongside the late Aaliyah. What are your memories of working with her?
Working with Aaliyah was a dream. She was beautiful, she was talented, a pure soul, the nicest person you could ever want to be around, and so for her to pass away right as everything was really about to explode for her — I mean, she was already a talent and a superstar in the musical world, but she was really about to explode on the movie side. She had several films under her belt. She was going to be in The Matrix. She was cast in The Matrix two and three and was about to start filming not soon after her tragic accident, so we never really got to see her full talent, but what she left us with at that time was just a scratch on the surface of who she was as an artist, but she was a wonderful human being.
Tracee Ellis Ross has said that she wasn’t the biggest fan of yours prior to getting to know you, but now you two are great friends. What do you think rubbed her the wrong way, and what was your first impression of her?
It’s not that she wasn’t a big fan of mine. We actually were friendly at one point and we hosted the Vibe Awards one year and I made a joke at her expense in front of the audience and ever since that moment, she felt a certain kind of way about me, and she really didn’t know my sense of humor, my sensibilities and who I was comedically, so she took offense to the joke and I didn’t know she was harboring those feelings until we sat down and had a conversation one day after I had cast her for Black-ish, and had I known she felt that way about me, I still would've cast her. So we’re sitting there and she’s telling me and I’m like, “Really? That affected you like that and you’ve been holding on to this for almost 10 years? Baby, I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Now, there’s nothing that she wouldn't do for me. There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do for her. We protect one another on and off the set and we have a great working relationship and an even better personal relationship outside of work.
Season four of their hit ABC series Black-ish premieres on Tuesday, October 3 at 9 p.m.
Watch Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross do it for the culture in the BET video, above.
(Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)