It's a weekday morning on the Black-ish soundstage, and Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross are made up as if they just rolled out of bed: Ross's hair is a crazy mess and Anderson's pajamas are in wrinkled disarray. In other words, they resemble an average, frazzled American couple waking up to a noisy family, ready to face another day at their demanding jobs.
Not only do they look the part, but longtime pals Anderson and Ross already boast chemistry that mirrors the relationship between Andre "Dre" and Rainbow Johnson, the married duo at the heart of the sitcom. Dre is concerned that his wife and children have lost some of their heritage and an appreciation for their humble beginnings after the trappings of success — and the assimilation that came along with it — kicked in. Dre's dad, played by Laurence Fishburne (who's also an executive producer), pops in from time to time as well. Anderson, Ross, and Fishburne tell us why they think they've hit on something special.
TV Guide Magazine: What's it like being fake husband and wife?
Anderson: Who says it's fake? We get to walk around in our skivvies and a bathrobe and bath towel later today. It's pretty great.
Ross: Anthony leaned over at me in the kitchen the other day and said, "I don't know if I've told you this, but it's really fun working with you." And I feel the same way. On-camera chemistry doesn't always happen off camera. But we both have a similar work ethic and style. We both are silly, but then we know our lines and do our work. There's also a generosity and an ease between us that is natural and really fun.
TV Guide Magazine: In the pilot, Dre gets upset after his big promotion comes with an unexpected caveat. Rainbow tells him to play it cool — but Dre twists her advice and nearly loses his job in the process. Is this typical of their relationship? Will Rainbow always be the voice of reason?
Anderson: Rainbow's the voice of reason in her world. And unfortunately for us, she thinks her world is the world we live in.
Ross: I also think [in the pilot] it seems as if Rainbow is grounding him, but the truth is, she's just as crazy as he is. You know what they say in real life, a good relationship is when both are not crazy at the same time. When he's crazy, she's not, and when she's crazy, he's not. So there's this back and forth.
Anderson: You don't mind if I borrow that in future interviews, right?
Ross: Is that what we're doing? We have to give each other credit now?
Anderson: I am going to plagiarize that.
Ross: It's good, right?
TV Guide Magazine: You guys have a great time slot, after Modern Family, which means this is an important show for the network.
Anderson: It's an important show on so many levels. The resurgence of family television back in primetime is a huge thing. More important for us, the resurgence of a positive African-American family on network television is one reason that [executive producer] Kenya Barris and I conceived this show and Kenya created it. We looked at the landscape of television and saw what was missing.
Ross: The other thing that's special and groundbreaking is this is a show about a black family dealing with their ish. We are not running away from the fact that we're a black family. But the show is not about that. I think the opportunity is to let people see that this is a show for everybody. Human ish is all the same.
Fishburne: My greatest hope for the series is that we are embraced by a large audience and that we can give them a lot of laughter and love. Ultimately, it's about service to the audience.
TV Guide Magazine: A fun coincidence, Anthony and Tracee: In your last major TV roles, both of you were married to Cosby Show kids. (Anderson to Tempestt Bledsoe on NBC's Guys With Kids; Ross to Malcolm Jamal-Warner on BET's Reed Between the Lines.)
Ross: That's hilarious.
Anderson: Wow, I never thought of that!
Ross: It's kind of weird; it's the incestuousness of television.
Anderson: Speaking of incest, she was also married to Laurence Fishburne on CSI. Now he's her father-in-law.
TV Guide Magazine: Laurence, we know you mostly as a dramatic actor. Why did you want to do a sitcom?
Fishburne: I've had a desire to do comedy for about 10 years, but when you're known for drama, you have to introduce the audience to your lighter side in baby steps. But being partnered with Tracee and Anthony is gold. They both move seamlessly between comedy and drama.
TV Guide Magazine: Was there a moment where it felt like everything clicked?
Ross: Honestly, in the audition.
Anderson: When Tracee came in, that's when it all came together.
Fishburne: They really have something. There was a moment where she kissed him and then punched him in the shoulder. That's husband-and-wife stuff for real.
Black-ish premieres Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 9:30/8:30c on ABC.
For all the scoop on 43 new shows, pick up this week's Fall Preview issue, on newsstands Thursday, Sept. 11!