Kenya Barris was inspired by his own life experiences when he created the ABC sitcom “Black-ish,” and Anthony Anderson, a producer and star on the show, could also relate. “Kenya is from Inglewood, California. I’m from Compton, California. Both are inner-city hoods here in Los Angeles. We’re both first-generation successful, all of our children being in private school, being the only African-Americans in our neighborhood … So we shared these stories with one another, and six weeks later, Kenya came back to me and said, ‘Anthony, I think I have a show for us to do.’” (Watch our complete video chat below.)
The experience of growing up affluent and black has had an impact on Anderson’s children similar to the impact it has had on his on-screen kids. He explains, “For a while, not only was my son the only African-American in his class, he was the only chocolate drop in his grade for three years.”
Anderson adds, “He didn’t feel that he was black, and I said, ‘Son, what do you mean by that?’ He was born into this life of privilege. My family and our friends still live in the hood, and he sees what’s going on in society, and it’s not his experience, but I had to tell him that everybody’s experience is unique, and because this is your black experience doesn’t make you any less black.”
Then his son asked for a bar mitzvah, to which Anderson marveled, “Whoa, you really aren’t black, are you?” That inspired the storyline featured in the “Black-ish” pilot. But while Anderson doesn’t usually go to as extreme lengths as his on-screen character, Dre Johnson, in educating his children on their heritage, he did agree to throw his son a “bro mitzvah,” just like Dre does.
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