WE SPENT THE BETTER PART of a muggy, June day with Anthony Anderson at a photo studio in Los Angeles. There was a lot going on. That’s the typical vibe at photo shoots, but more importantly, there was also a lot going on in our California world and globally. The pandemic crisis was in full swing–particularly in Los Angeles–and there were surging Black Lives Matter protests occurring throughout Southern California. Everyone seemed just a bit unsure of how life would play out as the state was starting to enter its first phase of reopening.
As photo sessions go, this one was a benchmark. It was the first for our magazine since the pandemic altered life as we know it. We strategically plotted a course to have a socially distanced shoot. There were rules: only essential personnel would be allowed to attend; we’d utilize two large studios in an effort to keep a wide berth for staffers; everyone must wear a face covering, with the exception being Anthony while being photographed; and people would keep maximum distance from each other at all times. The final rule was that we will have fun despite all of these adjustments.
Fortunately, it all worked out. Anthony was a good sport, and the crew were real troopers.
We learned that Anthony is legit. A husband and father of two. A proud of- his-humble Compton beginnings family member and philanthropist. (His Anderson Family Foundation has raised over a million dollars for a variety of charities.) Anthony is also a life-long game show geek. (He’s currently the host of To Tell the Truth.) Along with the other principals of black-ish, he’s worked his way into the hearts of millions over these last six or seven television seasons by offering us a network sitcom with humanity, humor and depth. Anthony will have turned fifty by the time this issue is published, and we learned he’s a lionhearted guy with a unique, experiential perspective as a Black man.
This was good news for everyone at the photo shoot. Chatting with this thoughtful man at this point in time also provided a uniquely impactful experience.
By Randy Mastronicola, Portraits by John Russo
We’re living in unprecedented times given the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and an upcoming presidential election. Do you feel black-ish is just what the doctor ordered in some ways?
We’re saying this to be heard, listened to, accepted and have it resonate with those outside of the community as well. That’s what dialogue and change is all about—coming together, sitting across from each other with differences of opinions, but after hearing each other out, we can leave the table with even more understanding and respect for one another.
So many people have connected to black-ish throughout the show’s run. How much of the show stems from your personal life?
We pull a lot from it. It’s not just my life. It’s the life of Kenya [Barris, the creator of black-ish], and it’s also the lives of our talented writers and our show runners as well. We all have ideas and experiences. [Anthony is also one of the executive producers on black-ish.] Kenya and I sat down almost eight years ago and talked about what was missing from the landscape of television for viewers. We had the same sensibilities. It’s just about all of our experiences, and how we deal with it as a nucleus, as a family on the show. A lot of the first season were pretty much things that Kenya and I were going through with our families.
You shared on social media that you were at a peaceful protest, and basically, nine policemen went off on you. It’s admirable you spoke out.
When I posted it–that was from 31 years ago. Thirty years prior to that, those things were happening. Thirty plus years after that, they’re still happening. The fuel to my fire is talking about what’s needed for change. I don’t think we’re asking for anything other than what is a God-given right in this country or anything out of the ordinary. We’re fighting for respect, and we’re fighting for civil liberties that have been denied.
It’s unfortunate that sometimes we can’t sit and have an honest discussion without it becoming emotional on both sides of the table, and it being more defensive on one side than the other. It’s an interesting time that we are in right now. We are on the precipice of change, and not only the African-American community, but other communities who feel disenfranchised, who feel forgotten about and marginalized.
It was a want for me to get out there and to let them know that my celebrity doesn’t make me impervious to what’s happening within our community, within society. I was having this conversation with someone the other day, and they were like, “Well you’re a celebrity and you’re this, you’re that.” I was like, “Yes, but it still affects me. I made it out of the hood, but my 200-plus family members are still in the hood, so it still does affect me greatly.”
Want more? Read the full interview on Issuu!