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Tracee Ellis Ross, Courtney B. Vance Discuss the Importance of Race in TV

Courtney B. Vance’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” and Tracee Ellis Ross’ “Blackish” have heavily contributed to TV’s conversation on race in the past year. In an interview for Variety‘s “Actors on Actors” series, the two sat down to discuss why “you can’t just leave this race thing alone.”

“What a beautiful thing that on a television comedy, a show that’s seen by millions every week that we can talk about it [race],” said Vance, acknowledging “Blackish’s” involvement in the racial discourse. “For the longest time [we have not].”

While race is a frequent topic of discussion in media, film and TV today, it was not always a conversation that was held across various platforms, noted Vance and Ross.

“We could talk about it,” said Vance. “We heard it just like the children in your show, like, ‘What are they talking about? What are they saying?’ But, now, we’re watching that conversation happen on television in a context that we can actually watch and all people can watch.”

“‘Blackish’ is set in current times,” Ross added. “So, doing a police brutality episode in current times when kids are watching our show, it gives them an access point to have these kinds of conversations as family.”

Ellis and Vance agreed that “you can’t separate it out,” meaning that race has to be part of the conversation.

“To try to is pretending and is making something that doesn’t exist,” said Ellis. “How do you tell the story with the appropriate nuance that they deserve because these are topics that have so much nuance in them — so much gray.”

The entire interview can be watched when the two-part fourth-season premiere of “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors” airs June 12 and June 19 on PBS SoCal. Presented by Shopbop/East Dane, the episodes will also be available to stream on Variety.com.

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