Opening ABC Studios’ panel at Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys event today, Emmy-nominated Black-ish stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross discussed the genesis of spectacular Season 4 opener “Juneteenth” and challenges seen this season in the marriage of Dre and Bow, centering on postpartum depression and events that could culminate in a divorce.
On the subject of “Juneteenth” — a musical episode commemorating the annual festival that reflects on the emancipation of slaves in 1865 Texas — Anderson joked that Ellis Ross took some convincing to fully commit to the episode. “She was like: ‘I was not a field negress. I was in the house. We gonna be historically accurate — take me out the field!”
“Of course, there’s nothing better than a musical,” said Ellis Ross, who reflected on the opportunity to tell a story in a different way — as Black-ish so often does — while “sharing our culture in a way that tells the story authentically.”
Regarding marital strife in the Johnson clan, Ross teased an upcoming four-episode arc, the first of which she directed, explaining the challenges of departing from the series’ typically safe marital space. “The core of our show is that Anthony and I play in this joyful, respectful love for each other. [So] it was trying to figure out where to land,” Ross explained. “To figure out where the anchor was without that and let it continue for four episodes was not easy.”
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