Interview with Tracee Ellis Ross #blackish #ABCTVEvent


Tracee Ellis Ross
Photo Credit: ABC

Tracee Ellis Ross

We had the pleasure of meeting Tracee Ellis Ross on the ABC lot while we were in L.A. a couple of weeks ago. She actually introduced herself to each of us, individually, and shook our hands. She was so pleasant, funny, and easy to talk with. She walked us through the Johnson’s house on the set of black-ish. If you don’t know, Tracee portrays Rainbow Johnson on ABC’s black-ish, which airs Wednesdays at 9:30|8:30c.

Tracee gave us the grand tour, which you’ll see the pictures of next week. There was lots of space, lots of bright colors, and tons of shoes. I was ready to move in. Oh, and here’s something I bet you didn’t know: she hides copies of the script in different drawers throughout the set in case she forgets a line. She was showing us one hiding space in the picture below.

Tracee Ellis Ross
Photo Credit: ABC

One of the bloggers mentioned that every room on the set was bigger than her house. Tracee gave us the reasoning behind the increased space.

The nice part about the big rooms is it’s easy for shooting but, on Girlfriends it was smaller but they were all open. There was always a wall missing because we shot on multi-cam, which means you shoot more for an audience.  So these [walls], they all close, but like this wall is usually off [on the side], because they mostly shoot from this side for this room or through the door.

Tracee said that they can do less set ups, which will take less time. She also mentioned that most people don’t understand how long it actually takes to shoot a single episode. It takes five days for one 22-minute episode, and each of those days is very long.

Tracee Ellis Ross

When we stepped into the bedroom, she made a point to show us the sign that says ‘Please do not sit on, sleep on or use the set furniture.’ She may have mentioned that she and Anthony Anderson may not actually adhere to that rule. It was kind of funny the way she was talking about it. A nap or two may have been mentioned.

We were talking about the kids on set and how long they are allowed to work during the week. She didn’t know particulars on the child labor laws, but that there are blocks of school they they have to get in throughout the day and they have to take lunches at a certain time. If they come in later, they can work later, but still the same number of hours each day.

Donna, our Base Camp A.D. she literally marks out the blocks of time that they do for school. There’s a lot of protection and the younger kids are 10 and 11, and then Marcus and Yara are both 15.  I think when they turn 16, there’s an extra hour we get, but they’re really protective and they all have great teachers and they have a great school in a trailer that is half for the younger kids, half for the older kids.
It’s kind of amazing, and their teachers are fantastic.  It’s really kind of special.

Tracee Ellis Ross
Photo Credit: ABC

When asked how great is it to work with such talented younger actors, she was very honest in her answer.

Honestly, talent aside, yes they’re talented, but they’re wonderful people.  It’s really joyful, I have to say.  They’ve been on the planet for less time than us and they’re not jaded. They just have a pure joy that you can’t […] when you see Miles and Marsai in the morning, they run towards you for a huddle up.
It’s magic.  Usually between takes, there’s a lot of giggling and laughing and videos being taken and pictures and everything, so I really enjoy it.  They’re extremely talented.  For example Miles, who loves sports.  He loves basketball.  He loves LeBron James.  They’re kids, so you say something like focus, like get focused like everybody’s doing their other, you’re doing someone else coverage so you’re like focus.
And I realize, I was going to bed one night and I was like maybe he doesn’t know what that means.  I was like I need to explain that a little bit more because maybe that’s why everybody keeps saying focus, but maybe he has no idea what that means.  So I thought about it, a really good metaphor that I was really happy about, because he loves basketball, I was well it’s like who had the ball.  So now that’s what I say, I’m like who has the ball, but even if he doesn’t have the ball, even if you’re not the one with the ball, who has the ball?  So who is who, so that you stay in the scene and you stay in the game, right?
So I was really proud of myself.  [LAUGHING.]  They’re so young and they have such a grown-up job on their shoulders and they’re kids.  They’re great kids, so it’s really fun.

We wanted to know if she mothers them, too.

I guess so.  I mean sort of it’s my way, but I’m that way with myself, so I can understand that.  So let me think of a way to explain that to myself.  [LAUGHING.]  But yeah, they’re fantastic.  They’re wonderful and they’re happy and it’s amazing to me.  They’re kids and when they get tired, they have to keep working.

We talked a bit about Marcus, who plays her oldest son on black-ish.

He’s so talented.  I think he’s a little comic genius.  I think they’re wonderful, so we’re really blessed, and there’s such a natural connection between all of us that I’m amazed, it just kind of was there genuinely from the beginning, but it’s only growing more interesting.  We’ve been working together now, a year-and-a-half, so we really know each other and there’s a sense of safety and connection, so it’s really special.

It was asked that as a biracial, how important is it for her to get that story out there.

 Honestly, they have not explored that story that much on the show, and I will say that I have been very clear, I’m not playing myself.  I think it’s really exciting that she’s mixed.  I’ve actually never got to play a mixed character on TV.  I usually play a black girl.  But I think it’s exciting that she is mixed but the truth is we haven’t really been exploring that story line, and I have a real clarity that this is a role that I’m playing.
So although I try and keep it honest if I don’t believe that sort of that’s the trajectory of what my character would do from truth, that wouldn’t feel honest, but in terms of what my character’s doing, I leave that to the writers and it’s kind of like magic when you get the new script because you’re this is crazy or hilarious, but it’s not me.  It’s not my story.   So Bow it’s not a matched experience for what my experience has been.  I’m not married.  I don’t have four kids.


Tracee Ellis Ross
Photo Credit: ABC

We did notice how put together she looked and those shoes. Did you see the shoes? To die for! It was asked if she has any input on her wardrobe or if there were any designers that she loved to wear.

I do have input, but we have a wonderful costume department, led by Michelle Cole, who’s a very incredible, and been doing this forever. I do have input but they do the shopping.  I don’t really specify any designers.
My style is a little bit different than Bow, which I kind of love.  Bow doesn’t wear heels ever.  I wear heals all the time.  Bow rarely wears a heel, which I find liberatingly wonderful.  It’s so great to not put heels on, one of the things that was very clear to me that I really wanted to bring to Bow is that she dressed hair and makeup wise really like a woman that had authentically. I don’t know a mother of four with a career and a husband and all of that that can spend a ton of time putting together looks and doing the whole thing.
So I usually, I don’t wear mascara, I don’t wear eye shadow and stuff like that.  It’s sort of like the mascara and the lipstick is kind of it, which I feel is sort of her sort of regimen and routine.  There’s usually not a lot of jewelry.  I feel like the way she pulls from her closet is the way people pull from their closet, so it’s usually a dress and sneakers or jeans and a cute top.  So it’s usually it’s not styled. I wear a lot more stuff  than she does, but I like to keep it really authentic.
I usually, if we can, because of the shooting schedule, I usually remove my mascara and most of my makeup when I’m in the bed.  Sometimes, we can’t because we’re about to go back to another scene where I need to have my mascara on, but mostly I try to be authentic and not have makeup on when I’m in the bed.  It’s a pet peeve of mine when you see an actress wake up with lip gloss.  I’m like – and somehow, it’s not on the pillow.  Interesting.  And so this is hilarious.  It’s hilarious.  It’s so funny.

Of course, we needed to find out which black-ish episode was her favorite.

I really liked the episode Churched.  I just thought everybody was so funny.  I thought the writing was great.  I thought the direction was great.  I felt like, even just the little moments between the kids and  just overall it was a great one.  I loved the N-word episode just because I thought that writing-wise, that subject was handled pitch perfect in my opinion. That was such a difficult, how do you make that funny, and somehow they did, and yet we weren’t laughing at the word.
And I thought that was just so beautifully handled and the fact that it was introduced through Jack was so interesting and such an interesting way to flip that on its head where even for my character, which I liked, she had such a stanch clear no hate speech whatsoever, but when it was her kid, she got tangled, and I just thought that was so real.  Like she all of a sudden was a little bit on the fence like maybe it’s okay.
So I thought that was really well handled and then, I had one other I was going to say.  Oh, I thought that the kids were magical in the Halloween episode.  I did not see them shoot that.   I don’t know if you saw that episode, but when they were attacking the kids and it went into slow motion, I just was crying with laughter.  I couldn’t believe how funny that was.  It was so funny.  And then, little Kayla, God, I was like what’s happening?  It was so funny to me.  So I would say those three right now.  Those are all from this season.
It’s hard.  I love this show.  I mean, I laugh when I watch it.  I love that you can watch it with your kids and it’s really fun.  The stuff in the office kills me.  It’s just great.  Yeah.  I’m really, I feel really proud to be on the show.

We had an incredible time touring the set and talking with Tracee Ellis Ross. She was really a class act and I’m so glad we had the chance to walk through the set and have a chat with her.

Tracee Ellis Ross
Photo Credit: ABC

Tonight’s Episode

Photo Credit: (ABC/Eddy Chen)

“Man at Work” episode airs tonight at 9:30|8:30c on ABC.

ON ABC’S “black-ish”

“Man at Work” – Dre has always looked out for the crew he grew up with, but when his childhood friend Sha (guest star Faizon Love) comes to stay at the house for a few days, Bow thinks he is taking advantage of Dre’s generosity. Meanwhile, Daphne Lido (played by Wanda Sykes), the now ex-wife of Stevens & Lido’s founding partner, gains control of half of the company and wants to start inserting herself in company business. When Daphne starts to question Charlie’s work ethic, Dre must decide who he remains loyal to, on “black-ish,” WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2 (9:31-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.

“black-ish” stars Anthony Anderson as Andre “Dre” Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow Johnson, Yara Shahidi as Zoey Johnson, Marcus Scribner as Andre Johnson, Jr., Miles Brown as Jack Johnson, Marsai Martin as Diane Johnson and Laurence Fishburne as Pops.

Guest starring is Wanda Sykes as Daphne Lido, Faison Love as Sha, Peter Mackenzie as Mr. Stevens, Jeff Meacham as Josh, Deon Cole as Charlie Telphy, Catherine Reitman as Lucy and Issac Ryan Brown as Young Dre.

“Man at Work” was written by Vijal Patel and directed by Kevin Bray.

“black-ish” was created by Kenya Barris and is executive-produced by Barris, Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Sugland and E. Brian Dobbins. The series is produced by ABC Studios.

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black-ish airs Wednesday nights at 9:30|8:30c on ABC

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