Black-ish star Anthony Anderson was blissfully unaware when he received his first Primetime Emmy nomination — for Best Actor — this morning. Anderson wasn’t watching the Emmy Award nominations on TV or hitting refresh on his phone when the nominations were announced. He was on a plane. When Playboy caught up with him by phone earlier this afternoon, Anderson was waiting for his next flight at Heathrow Airport in London.
Congrats on the Emmy nomination. Where were you when you found out?
I’m actually on my way to South Africa right now. I just stepped off the plane at Heathrow Airport for a layover. I turned on my phone and it exploded. My manager called me and said, “It’s been a hell of a year, Anthony.” I said, “Yeah, it has been.” And he said, “So you don’t know?” “Know what?” And that’s when I found out that I got the nomination today.
You’re traveling to South Africa for a film?
I’m hosting the MTV Africa Music Awards this Saturday, and then I finally want to take a little vacation with the five days I have left before work. I’ll spend those days in Capetown.
And then you start production on Black-ish?
July 28 is our first table read, and August 3 is our first day at work.
Were you a presence in the writers room at all during the first season?
I didn’t spend much time in the writers room, but the majority of the stories from the first season were taken from my life. Kenya Barris created the show; he and I sat down and conceived Black-ish together. That’s what it is. Rainbow is his wife’s name in real life. They have five children, all in private school. I’m married, and I have two children in private school, the only African-American family in our neighborhood. Kenya’s from Inglewood, California. I’m from Compton, California. Both inner-city hoods.
The pilot episode was lifted from my life. My son came home one day and said he didn’t feel black as a 12-year-old kid. We had a long conversation about his blackness, and I understood where he was coming from. He was born into a life of privilege. He sees what’s going on around the country with young black men, and that’s not his experience. At the end of that conversation, he told me he wanted to have a bar mitzvah for his 13th birthday. We came to a compromise, and I threw him a bro-mitzvah. So I may not be in the writers room, but I break stories with them.
And the bro-mitzvah was an actual episode.
Yep. The majority of the episodes that you see come from my life and Kenya’s life. I may not be writing, but I’m telling stories of my life.
Black-ish splits its time between the home environment and the work environment — has it been comfortable for you and the writers to go back and forth?
It is a comfortable thing. It allows us to play outside of the outside of the house and outside of the family, which strengthens the show. We have a great supporting cast, and there are more things that we can do. It had always been our plan to have that component, but we had to get people invested in the family and the central characters at home first. Once you’re invested in them, then you can take viewers on any ride you want to take them on, and that next ride was definitely the workplace. Now we’re introducing more characters, more family. As the show continues to go on, it will continue to grow.
Will Laurence Fishburne be only recurring again this coming season?
Laurence has a unique situation. He could only work so many episodes because he also had a show on NBC, Hannibal, so we could only get Laurence for half the season. It’s going to be interesting to see what we do now that Hannibal won’t be around anymore.
And he’ll be shooting Roots at some point.
Yeah, so now that has popped up. We’ll work with that. We’re coming back for 24 episodes, and he’ll be there for at least 12 of the 24 episodes. We would love to have him for more, but he’s in demand and has other things that he wants to do — like directing a film and starring in Roots.
The show has episodes that are more about race and episodes that are less about race. Are you looking for a particular mix?
We’re just talking about things we experience, and how they fall is how they fall. No one wants to sit and talk about race all the time, but my character Dre is very opinionated about how he wants his children to be raised and he wants them to embrace their culture. He wants them to be a part of the world but not to forget where they come from. Race is something that we don’t shy away from, but we don’t want to be polarizing either. If it lends itself to the story we’re trying to tell, then it’s a part of it.