‘Black-ish’ Creator Kenya Barris on ‘Confederate,’ ‘Detroit’ and ABC Comedy’s Juneteenth Musical

ABC’s “Black-ish” has built a reputation as one of broadcast’s most critically loved comedies in part by being unafraid to tackle social issues, particularly when it comes to race. The upcoming season premiere will be no exception.

Speaking to reporters Monday on the “Black-ish” set, series creator Kenya Barris teased the show’s upcoming Season 4 premiere — a musical episode that takes on the legacy of slavery.

“One of the things we’re really excited about is our premiere,” Barris said. “We’ve been wanting to do it for awhile because I think we have such a talented cast. We’re going to do something that has a musical element to it and in some ways is an homage to ‘Hamilton,’ which I think everyone is a huge fan of.”

Barris describes the episode as a “historically significant think-piece” that celebrates Juneteenth, the holiday that marks the end of slavery in the United States. “If that was the last day when slavery ended in the United States, isn’t that really Independence Day?” Barris said. “How can we honestly have independence before everyone’s independent, everyone’s free?”

He added, “There’s never really been a true apology for slavery. There’s some debate to that. But there’s something in the episode that I don’t want to ruin that really speaks to [the fact that] even the notion of that is something very hard for our country.”

Barris — co-writer of the feature film “Girls Trip” and creator of the upcoming “Black-ish” spinoff “Grown-ish” — also discussed the ways that race has been handled elsewhere in television and film. He spoke about HBO’s upcoming drama “Confederate,” from “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who will write and executive produce with Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman. The series will be set in an alternative present in which the South won the Civil War and slavery thrives.

Barris said that it was “hard for me personally to weigh in on ‘Confederate,’ because I have not read an ounce of the script” from the show, which is still in its very early stages and is not expected to begin production until after “Game of Thrones” wraps in 2018. “I think there is space for alternate history and alternative futures. I think it’s a very dangerous playground. It’s full of glass and shards of metal. I think they have to be very careful. I see who’s doing it in particular, and I wonder.”

The producer then pointed to criticism of Kathryn Bigelow’s feature film “Detroit,” and “the danger of witnessing black pain through white eyes.” Directed by Bigelow, who is white, the movie tells the story of the 1967 Detroit rebellion and the Algiers Motel incident in which three black teenagers were killed by police and several other black teens were beaten. Barris described his response after going to see the movie.

“When I walked out of it, I was really angry, and I was really sad,” Barris said. “I thought the movie was fine. It wasn’t ‘Hurt Locker,’ but she did a good job with it. I went with a friend of mine who’s white. He was like, ‘Man, white people are evil.’ And I said ‘No, I don’t think white people are evil. I don’t think the movie quite showed both levels of it.'”

More TV

  • U.K. Broadcaster Channel 5 Readies Thomas

    U.K. Broadcaster Channel 5 Readies Thomas Markle Documentary

    ViacomCBS-backed U.K. broadcaster Channel 5 will air a 90-minute documentary on Meghan Markle’s father Thomas Markle. Markle and her husband Prince Harry sparked a global media frenzy earlier this month with their decision not to continue as senior members of the British Royal Family. Buckingham Palace announced that the couple are to lose their royal [...]

  • Tony Hall BBC Director General

    BBC Boss Tony Hall Lands at U.K.'s National Gallery

    BBC director general Tony Hall has been appointed chair of the board of trustees of the National Gallery. The executive, who has served on the Gallery’s board since November, takes over as chair from Sir John Kingman, who has been interim chair since Hannah Rothschild stood down from the role in September. Hall said: “The [...]

  • Fox TV Stations Greenlight 'Central Ave'

    Fox TV Stations Greenlight 'Central Ave' From Will Packer, Debmar-Mercury

    Fox Television Stations has ordered the weekly entertainment news magazine “Central Ave,” which hails from prolific film and TV producer Will Packer and Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury. Debmar-Mercury and Will Packer Media will produce two half-hour shows per week of “Central Ave,” which tackles pop culture and other topics from a “socially conscious and diverse lens,” per [...]

  • Frontrunners Emerge As BBC's Tony Hall

    Frontrunners Emerge as BBC Boss Tony Hall Set to Leave Broadcasting Behind

    As the U.K. industry reacts to news of Tony Hall’s intention to depart the BBC this July, top-level executives including Charlotte Moore and Tim Davie as well as external contenders such as Channel 4’s Alex Mahon are beginning to emerge. Variety understands that Lord Hall, who has headed the BBC for seven years as director [...]

  • Gustavo Mello and Ran Tellem

    Boutique Filmes, The Mediapro Studio Team for ‘To Kill a Queen’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID — Gustavo and Tiago Mello’s São Paulo-based Boutique Filmes, producers of early Netflix Original overseas breakout “3%,” is teaming with high-end drama powerhouse The Mediapro Studio (“The New Pope,” “The Head”) to produce “To Kill a Queen.” International sales rights on the series will be handled by The Mediapro Studio Distribution. From an original [...]

  • Donald Trump Hollywood Racism

    Impeachment Trial Adds to TV's Breaking-News Juggle

    As if TV news needed more headlines… The usual suspects are gearing up to cover the U.S. Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, the latest swirl in what seems to be a never-ending news cycle centered on the White House. But the impeachment proceedings, which kick off in earnest Tuesday, take place as many [...]

  • Blood Oath

    MBC Studios to Launch Arabic TV Series 'Blood Oath,' Written by Britain's Tony Jordan

    MBC Studios, the Saudi-owned production unit of top Middle Eastern free-to-air satellite network MBC Group is set to launch “Blood Oath,” an Arabic crime series written by Britain’s Tony Jordan (“EastEnders,” “Life on Mars”). The announcement comes as Dubai-based MBC Studios, set up in 2018 and headed by former president of NBCUniversal International Peter Smith, is [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content