Things got a bit heated during the Black-ish panel at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Thursday afternoon.
When one reporter posed a question about what percentage of the ABC comedy’s audience is African American — and in the phrasing of his question, noted that there was initially “uncertainty about how [the show] was going to be received by the African-American community” and that Donald Trump had “weighed and tweeted something about it being racist” — during the broadcast network’s last session of the day, the show’s creator Kenya Barris did not hold back.
“I will be so happy when diversity is not a word. I have the best job in the world and I am constantly having to talk about diversity. I have the best actors. It’s ridiculous,” he said, carefully crafting his reply. “We’re in a time when everything is about black and white, and this and that. We get opportunities and we are happy to be the people who can step up and say, ‘We can do this.’ But these are amazing actors. It doesn’t matter who is watching our show. The fact is that they’re watching it.”
He went on to point out that he gets questions like this one often — and frankly, he’s fed up. “I feel like every question at every panel… I’m so tired of talking about diversity. These are amazing, talented actors and amazing writers who give their all … and it’s clouding the conversation.”
Series star Tracee Ellis Ross, seated next to her co-star Anthony Anderson on the panel, then stepped in to ask the reporter, “Is that a question that you’ve asked other shows that are not predominantly of a certain color?” When the writer responded “not necessarily,” Ellis politely offered this to the room full of press: “I think sometimes that those questions continue the conversation in a direction that does not help the conversation.”
These are very creative, talented artists involved currently part of something that is becoming increasingly rare: a network sitcom that’s actually funny. Here’s a thought, perhaps they would prefer to talk about the show, comedy, television or acting while on a panel in front of television critics.
It isn’t difficult to see why Barris is frustrated with questions like this. His work isn’t being celebrated and he’s being pigeonholed in a sociopolitical way that almost denigrates it.
Let Barris talk about his work, not the racial demographics of his audience. Hey, his creation has an audience, which is isn’t something that ends up being true for most new shows trotted out every new TV season. Good for him for smacking down a question that was both inane and insulting at the same time.
Also, watch the show. It’s good. I don’t say that about a lot of sitcoms.