Tracee Ellis Ross directed her second episode of “Black-ish” last season, the superb “Black History Month,” and the second time was just as rewarding as the first. Not just because she knew how to balance the duties of an actor and director now, but directing in general gives her a greater, deeper appreciation of all the different elements that come together to produce an episode of television.
“I think the biggest benefit of directing, especially within your own family, is you really get to take an objective point of view and see how extraordinary our family is,” Ross shared during ABC’s Emmy FYC event held on Saturday, June 1 at the Walt Disney lot in Burbank, California (watch above). “Our crew is exceptional. Even if we were great actors, if the cameramen don’t capture it, it doesn’t matter. Every piece — wardrobe, hair and makeup, Rob [Sweeney], our DP — every single part of our crew, none of it happens [without them]. TV is such a collaborative art and so there’s the magic that happens in all the different places. There’s the magic that happens in a tone meeting, there’s the magic that happens when the scripts are being written, there’s the magic that happens in the wardrobe department. There’s all these different things and then it comes together in those moments and when you get to be the director, you get to see it all happen and kind of guide that ship. But the truth is on a TV show, that ship is moving whether you’re there or not.”
Ross was joined by her co-stars Anthony Anderson, Marcus Scribner, Marsai Martin, Peter Mackenzie, Jeff Meacham and Jenifer Lewis; executive producers Jonathan Groff and Kenny Smith; and costume designer Michelle Cole. The Golden Globe winner gave props to Groff and Smith for continuing to come up with fresh, interesting stories as the show heads into its sixth season while producing up to 24 episodes a season, unlike many of its cable and streaming brethren that often churn out fewer than 10. A three-time Best Comedy Series Emmy nominee, “Black-ish” was the sole broadcast show in last year’s lineup.
“I remember when we were nominated last year, the other shows that were nominated, you have to pick six episodes [to submit] for an Emmy [and] their season was eight episodes. We have done 24 amazing episodes for five years [each],” Ross said. “Our show continues to be this breath of joy and storytelling and humanity, and unpacking these things that all of us are thinking about and experiencing in our lives, but you get to laugh and see them in our show in a way that I really got to appreciate and get to appreciate as a director.”
And after being together for nearly six years, the Johnson clan is as tight off camera as they are on, with Anderson ribbing Lewis for giving a lengthy answer. Watch the video above to see that — and the cast break out into song.
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