Want a bar mitzvah but aren't Jewish? Comedian Anthony Anderson can help.
The star of ABC's upcoming comedy Black-ish, which premieres Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 9:30/8:30c, was faced with that question when his 12-year-old son expressed a wish for the Jewish coming-of-age ritual. "I looked him in the eye and said, 'That's not our culture, but I will throw you a hip-hop "bro-mitzvah."' I trademarked the name," Anderson said at ABC's Television Critics Assocation fall previews on Tuesday.
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This creative solution is the heart of ABC's Black-ish, which coins the tonally ambiguous term to explore a similarly uncertain experience by black Americans today through the lens of the Johnson family. "The show celebrates 'black-ish' more as culture thing than a race thing," executive producer Larry Wilmore explained. He also pointed out that all cultures that have tried to assimilate to America can relate since "something is always lost" as a result. Series creator Kenya Barris added, "[It's about] a man trying to raise his family at a time where it's different from when he grew up."
In short, Black-ish examines what it means to be black in a world where the definition of black culture is still evolving. For example, on the series, Anderson's character Andre "Dre" Johnson is disappointed that his son doesn't want to play basketball. In real life, however, the actor is an avid golfer, who's been hitting the links for 18 years. "Well, I'm black-ish!" he confirmed.
The comedy also extends its observations to those who identify as black. Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays matriarch Rainbow Johnson, is thrilled for the first time to play a character like herself who is explicitly of mixed race. "I had to define myself before by my race because I'm both, and yet I identify with black people," she said. On the series, Rainbow is caught in the same dilemma of identifying as black, whereas her husband rejects that because she's mixed.
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The idea of black-ish-ness even pervades the highest echelons of our country. Wilmore pointed out, "[Barack] Obama is really the first black-ish president; he's mixed." Anderson added, "Bill Clinton was the first black president."
Black-ish premieres Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 9:30/8:30c on ABC. Get a sneak peek here.