Tracee Ellis Ross Q&A: ‘Black-ish’
When "Black-ish" debuted last fall on ABC, it was focused primarily on Anthony Anderson as Dre Johnson, an ad exec who worries that his children don't understand their racial heritage, but as the first season progressed, we got to know the rest of the Johnson clan better, including his wife Rainbow, played by Tracee Ellis Ross. Says the actress, "we got a chance for them to write to who I am as a person and my sensibility as an actor and the fact that I am a little crazy."
Rainbow is a successful doctor who is sometimes the voice of reason, but the actress is grateful that "this is not the old-school television husband-and-wife duo where the husband is crazy and the wife is the sane voice of reason who's constantly rolling her eyes. It's more of a match for what really happens in life where two people are really well suited for each other … They're never crazy at the same time, and the kids are always the voice of reason."
Playing the role has also been meaningful to Ross for giving her the opportunity to play a biracial woman. "Bow's experience as a mixed-race woman is very different from my experience as a mixed-race woman," says Ross. "However, the ability to explore that, to play it as an actual character trait is really fun. I am mixed-race – my dad is white and my mom is black – but I've never played mixed-race before … There's a whole bunch of story in that that I hope we get to explore."
"Black-ish" now aims for Emmys, and it's already off to a good start in the awards derby. In a season of noteworthy gains in diversity on television, "Black-ish" was fully embraced by the NAACP Image Awards earlier this year, winning Best Comedy Series and all four comedy acting prizes, including Best Actress for Ross. It was the fourth Image Award win for Ross, but this year's event was especially special. "It was as if that show was for us, like they made the NAACP Image Awards for 2015 for 'Black-ish,'" she says. "And the fact that Anthony was hosting – it was such a great moment … There is nothing more charming and wonderful and delightful than people responding to what you're doing."