From Kenya Barris, the Emmy® nominated creator of black-ish, comes #blackAF. Loosely inspired by Barris’ irreverent, highly flawed, unbelievably honest approach to parenting, relationships, race, and culture, #blackAF flips the script on what we’ve come to expect a family comedy series to be. Pulling back the curtain, #blackAF uncovers the messy, unfiltered and often hilarious world of what it means to be a “new money” black family trying to get it right in a modern world where “right” is no longer a fixed concept. The Netflix original series stars Barris as a fictionalized version of himself and Rashida Jones (Angie Tribeca) as his wife Joya. Kenya and Joya’s children are played by Genneya Walton (Xtant), Iman Benson (Suits), Scarlet Spencer (Bright), Justin Claiborne (Reverie), Ravi Cabot-Conyers (The Resident) and Richard Gardenhire Jr. #blackAF is executive produced by Barris, Jones, and Hale Rothstein.
Recently, we had the opportunity to chat with Barris on his upcoming projects. Here’s what he had to say about his new show #blackAF and Coming To America 2.
TheMovieBlog: So you have a new show coming out on Netflix, #blackAF. Can you tell us a little bit about it and why it is better than Black-ish, Grown-ish and Mix-ish combined?
Kenya Barris: [Laughs] I won’t say that that’s the case at all. I love those shows. Black-ish changed my life and it’s my heart. I feel like [#blackAF] is just different. I feel like it’s more personal. It’s more personal. I’m taking some hits because it’s a little bit more…I won’t say mean-spirited, but it’s a little bit more sarcastic, more sardonic. I’m playing a heightened version of myself that I’m really trying to be a little bit more self-deprecating… and take some hits and be a little bit more edgier… and be a little bit more functionally dysfunctional as a family…On network TV, you have to appeal to everybody, and I think that’s great…But at the same time I think we’re moving to the place now where we can be a little bit edgier. I wanted to take a swing.
I think one of the big things with Netflix is that there’s so much content…It’s such a behemoth. So when I did it, I was like, “how do you do something that’s a little bit noisier and make a little bit noise?”… I know the people are saying, “Well we’ve seen the meta version of someone playing [themselves].”… We [Black people] haven’t had a lot of those opportunities…So I wanted to do something that kind of gave us a look at, stepping into that lane and show how we can do it. Because I think our experiences are always unique and a little bit more different. And that was the big sort of leap for this.
TheMovieBlog: Is there anything you can tell us about Coming to America 2 to get us looking forward to it?
Kenya Barris: Yes. Everybody came back!…So when I went to [Eddie Murphy’s] house, you go to the house, and meet Eddie and I’m sitting there and it’s just like, he’s kind of reserved. He’s kind of quiet. But everything he says, when he starts talking it’s like just so unbelievably genius level of funny. And so seeing those two dudes [Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall] together, and seeing how black doesn’t crack…because you could go back and do reshoots on them from the first one…they just keep it together. It felt like I was part of a really special group.
One of the things about [Coming to America 2] that made me really think is when we were looking for who’s going to play Eddie’s son. We got a great guy, in Jermaine Fowler, but it was really hard. It made me think that there’s a responsibility on us as creatives. We have to bring up that next generation. Who is the next generation? Eddie and those guys were stars when they were 20 years old. Who’s the 20 to 25-year-old star that you’re going to put on a poster that gets people to come to the movies and gets people to watch? We have to bring up that next generation, and we have to bind together and really support them…and get them in front of things so that they can actually lead the generation after them.