It may be hard to believe that the success of Black-ish was not always a given. While bringing the acclaimed series to television, creator Kenya Barris had a modest goal of just getting the series on the air – fingers crossed it would last a full season. To say the series far surpassed these goals would be a massive understatement.
Black-ish, which has now entered its eighth season (and final) season, quickly became one of television’s most beloved shows. The series has 24 Emmy nominations and a slew of other honors to male that case. “One season turned into two, which, now, is into our eighth,” Barris said. “Never, in a million years, imagined that it would become what it’s become.”
The series tells the story of the Johnsons, a modern Black family living in America. Unlike previous shows like “The Cosby Show” who just “happened to be Black” Barris explained, he wanted to do “a show that was absolutely, positively, just outwardly Black.”
The eight season may be the final chapters in their story, but star Tracee Ellis Ross feels the series could go even 10 years because its character-driven focus on following the Johnsons “navigating the world we live in.” Ross explained, this is due in part to that fact that “there’s a never ending amount of topics for us to discuss that are a part of the wallpaper of our lives that we’re all trying to make sense of and navigate.” Some of the topics she mentioned ranged “from Juneteenth, to police brutality, to postpartum depression, to just being a family.”
Fans know that the expansive list does not end there. Every episode invites viewers into the Johnson household to share the love, the lessons, and the challenges that many families face in today’s world – always told with perfect amount of humor. For their farewell season, which launched last week, they invited in a long list of impressive guest stars to help send off the series. Former First Lady Michelle Obama, Olympic champion Simone Biles, actor Daveed Diggs, Vivica A. Fox, Magic Johnson, and Stephen A. Smith are just some of the familiar faces viewers will see in the coming episodes.
I recently had the opportunity to ask stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross, as well as series creator Kenya Barris and showrunner Courtney Lilly what they have learned about themselves during their eight-year journey with the show. The answers pulled back some layers to expose some of the magic behind the series’ success. Their love and respect for the series shined through; a lengthy response that had them sharing laughs, appreciation and tears. Below are abridged versions of their responses.
KENYA BARRIS: “I think it taught me something storytelling-wise that I’ll never forget, is that, you have to enter every story with a willingness to not have it go where you want it to go. We try to have enough voices that answer a lot of different points of view.
ANTHONY ANDERSON: It actually helped me to trust in my fellow actor and realized that I don’t have to carry the load, or shoulder the load, or it’s the not all about me. I can trust in my other actor, who’s right next to me on the screen right now — Tracee Ellis Ross — to know that if I take this leap, she’s never going to allow me to fall, and I’m there for her. Tracee has taught me, and opened up a new world for me, in that way.
TRACEE ELLIS ROSS: I learned about partnership. I really did. Anthony and I have chemistry on screen. We discovered a way of dancing that was magic. It just was so m uch fun, and it was based in trust and respect.
COURTNEY LILLY: Even if we had our points of view, you could hear it out. As a writer, to understand, and not be afraid of different points of view, but understand what your vision is, this is a place that I felt like I got to really, really, really take that to heart, you know? I feel like the thread through all of this is how we’ve all been changed by this. I’m not the same person I was eight years ago.
KENYA BARRIS: And to see you grow, Courtney, and just beautifully grow, and do multiple shows, and keep growing, and, you know, keep the spirit alive, and, the lack of ego, which I think, really, our show really had. Our show had a lack of ego. It transferred all the way down to the magical people that the actors on our set were. Like Tracee said, “trust.”
The trust shines through in every episode of the series.
Be sure to join in on the farewell with season eight of Black-ish. It airs on Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on ABC. Previous seasons and episodes can be streamed on Hulu.