‘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.'”

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