ABC’s “Black-ish” has been praised for its portrayal of an African-American family. But series creator Kenya Barris worries that the focus on that family’s race has overshadowed the universality of the show.
“I will be so happy when diversity is not a word,” Barris said Friday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, where ABC brought the cast and creative team of the series ahead of its third season and on the heels of its three Primetime Emmy Award nominations. But Barris appeared to grow frustrated when one reporter asked him what percentage of the show’s audience was black.
“It doesn’t matter who’s watching our show,” he said. “The fact is that they’re watching it. And I feel like every question at every panel … I get so tired of talking about diversity. These are amazing, talented actors and amazing writers who give their all and they don’t have to do this. It’s crowding the conversation.”
Star Tracee Ellis Ross, nominated in July for an Emmy for best comedy actress, turned the question back on the reporter, asking, “Is that a question that you’ve asked other shows that are not predominately of a certain color?”
“Not necessarily,” the reporter said.
“Those questions continue the conversation in a direction that does not help the conversation,” Ross added.
“Black-ish” was the fifth highest rated comedy on broadcast television last season, averaging a 2.4 rating among adults 18-49 in Nielsen live-plus-seven numbers. Barris later revealed that the series’ audience is majority white and 23% African-American.
“We always have to box everything in,” Barris said. “Isn’t it just a good family show? It’s specifically about a black family. We’re not denying that. But don’t you see yourself in it? Don’t you see your family in it? … Why is that important, who watched the show? Why does it matter? Why do we keep having to have these conversations?”
In addition to Ross’ Emmy nomination, “Black-ish” received nods last month for best comedy series and for Anthony Anderson as best comedy actor.
“Kenya sat down three or four years ago now and looked at the landscape of television and saw what was missing for us,” Anderson said. “And I’m proud to be up here on the stage with all these foot soldiers up here, because this is for us, by us. we get to tell our stories every week that resonate with an audience globally. We couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”