‘Black-ish’ Star Anthony Anderson Recalls His Nickelodeon Days

Anthony Anderson, who won an NAACP Image Award this year for his starring role on ABC’s “Black-ish,” has also earned kudos for his work on “Barbershop” and “The Departed.” But it was a part in the TV sci-fier “Alien Avengers” and in Nickelodeon’s Big Help-a-Thon that were his entre to Variety.

How did you get involved with Help-a-Thon?

I was on the Saturday-morning TV show “Hang Time.” When Nickelodeon asked me to come on, I jumped at that opportunity. It was about donating time to your community — and it was cool to just be a part of that movement.

How did you break into the biz?

I got an acting scholarship to Howard University, and then returned to L.A. I didn’t even have agents, but I would crash friends’ auditions. Casting director Jaki Brown-Karman saw something in me, and would call me for auditions. I was green and nervous about the industry. She said, “You need a picture and a resume. You need representation. Nobody’s going to take you seriously if you don’t take the business seriously.” Jaki advised me to continue studying, to get into a class, to hone my craft.

Was that a scary time?

I wasn’t afraid of success or failure, I was afraid of the unknown. It wasn’t “Am I good enough?”; it was “What is out there?” And I realized, how can I be afraid of something that hasn’t even manifested itself? So I let go (of the fear). A lot of people are afraid. I tell them, “Confront your fears, embrace your fears. And work in the meantime.”

How did you find an agent?

I was up for a TV show, commercial and movie at the same time. A commercial agent at Epstein Wyckoff sent me on a few things. I said, “I’m up for three projects now, and I need representation.” Next morning, I got a call from Craig Wyckoff’s assistant; those people were instrumental in my early career.

Do you look back and think your breakthrough was harder — or easier — than it seemed at the time?

My first 15-20 movies were all comedies. But I was willing to forsake comedy work, and I picked projects that people wouldn’t normally consider me for. Hollywood can be myopic. When you do something well, they think that’s all you can do. On my first resume, under “Skills” I wrote, “I have range like a rover.” I laugh now, but I was serious. And I started to change the ways they saw me.

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