Black-ish boss Kenya Barris was just hoping to get a show on the air when he first created the family comedy. Now in its final season, the ABC title starring Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross as the pillars of the Johnson family, has far exceeded his expectations.
“We wanted to say something that as much as we grew up loving the Cosby show, the Cosby show happened to be Black and we wanted to do a show that was absolutely, positively, outwardly Black,” Barris said during the comedy’s TCA panel on Tuesday. “I never in a million years imagined that it would become what it’s become. Our lives, and what we’ve done and how it’s allowed us all to grow into what it’s grown into.”
The comedy gave viewers an inside look into the comedic antics of the Johnson family, while also touching on larger, relevant cultural conversations. Over the years, Black-ish touched on topics ranging from the presidential election, colorism, Juneteenth, the Covid-19 pandemic and postpartum depression. Ross shared that she feels the series could have gone on for 10 more years, given the character-driven nature of the show and the “never-ending wealth of topics we discuss that were part of the wallpaper of our lives that we’re trying to make sense of and navigate.”
But even with its eight seasons, Ross believes that she and her Black-ish family are leaving the series “with a whole bunch of joy and pride about how we handled everything.”
The final season kicked off last week with a special guest appearance from former First Lady Michelle Obama, who is among the familiar faces set to give the ABC comedy a proper send off. The network unveiled on Tuesday that Simone Biles, Daveed Diggs, Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds, Vivica A. Fox, Magic Johnson, Stephen A. Smith and others will also appear during the season.
Showrunner Courtney Lilly teased that Anderson and Ross’ connections made the guest appearances happen, but added that the comedy’s profile and contribution to representation could have certainly helped.
“We’ve been on for eight years, it’s a show that people watch with their families and they’re proud to sit there and say, ‘hey I’m on Black-ish‘… people leapt at the opportunity because of the work we’ve done,” he said.
The panelists also reflected on their major professional and personal takeaways from the series, the on-screen chemistry between Ross and Anderson, and how the final season will serve as a “beautiful end” and a “proper homage” to the Emmy-winning series.
Black-ish returns for a new episode on Tuesday at 9:30 p.m ET/PT on ABC. The series also features Yara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, Miles Brown, Marsai Martin, Laurence Fishburne, Jenifer Lewis, Peter Mackenzie, Deon Cole, Jeff Meacham and Katlyn Nichol.
Barris and Lilly executive produce alongside Laura Gutin Peterson, Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Sugland, E. Brian Dobbins and Michael Petok. The series is produced by ABC Signature, a part of Disney Television Studios, alongside 20th Television and Touchstone Television.
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