Tracee Ellis Ross Interview: ‘Black-ish’
“Our show really runs the gamut,” says “Black-ish” star Tracee Ellis Ross. In the ABC sitcom’s fourth season “we went from ‘Juneteenth’ all the way over to divorce,” which gave the actress a lot of opportunities to “play in all these different ways. The stories that we keep getting to tell I just think is exciting, especially in the times that we’re in and the humanity that we’re sharing.” Ross earned her third consecutive Emmy nomination for Best Comedy Actress for playing Rainbow Johnson, a doctor raising an upper-middle class black family. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
For Emmy consideration, Ross submitted the episode “Elder Scam” because it contains “one of my favorite comedic scenes of my career.” In this installment, Rainbow deals with her college-bound daughter Zoey (Yara Shahidi) having a boy stay over. This leads to an awkward moment between the two in Zoey’s bedroom, followed by an equally hilarious encounter between Rainbow and her son Junior (Marcus Scribner). “It was a representation of the other thing that we do incredibly well on our show,” Ross explains, “which is write laugh-out-loud funny stuff that has strong story and leans into strong character, and really is specific to each of us.”
But the season eventually took a darker turn. Ross admits she was skeptical at first about this season’s divorce storyline between Rainbow and Dre (Anthony Anderson). “I thought it was nuts,” she says. Her anxiety was compounded by the fact that she was directing the first episode of the four-episode arc, “Fifty-Three Percent.” “Usually, you have the benefit of a director who can help hold your hand through navigating and finding your way with something that is completely different than what we usually do.” But in this case, Ross had to do that for herself.
“The heart of our show is that Dre and I love and enjoy each other. We deal with conflict, but even if he and I are on different sides of the coin, we still are connected.” So Ross wondered, “If you lose the anchor of what holds us together… then what anchors us?” Luckily, all ended well in the world of “Black-ish.” The couple reunited, though under bittersweet circumstances: they reconciled following the off-screen death of Bow’s father (Beau Bridges). “It was hard to fight for four weeks, but I think the finished product was worth it.”