While in Los Angeles we had the opportunity to watch 2 episode of Black-ish, take a tour of the set and our guide was Tracee ilis Ross! She was amazing. So polite, down to earth, and funny! We learned a lot about they practice scenes and how the dynamic is on set.
Tracee even told us that she hides he lines in the drawers in each room of the set so they are there to review and that their bed for the TV show is the most comfortable bed she has ever slept in! Sometimes she may even sneak in a nap in between scenes!
Andre ‘Dre’ Johnson (Anthony Anderson) has a great job, a beautiful wife, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), four kids and a colonial home in the ‘burbs. But has success brought too much assimilation for this black family? With a little help from his dad (Laurence Fishburne), Dre sets out to establish a sense of cultural identity for his family that honors their past while embracing the future.
Watch Black-ish on Wednesdays at 9:30pm EST (8:30 c)
I had a chance to screen tonight’s episode “Man at Work” while on our set visit and it’s another funny one! Both Wanda Sykes and Faizon Love guest star in this episode that has Dre’s childhood friend (Love) crashing at his house and Sykes making big changes at his work. You will really enjoy it!
Here’s our interview with Tracee. She was so down to earth and fun to chat with!
Q: Every room is bigger than my house.
Tracee: Well, the nice part about the big rooms is it’s easy for shooting. On Girlfriends, our, 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 like for an audience. They mostly shoot from this side for this room or through the door.
But it does make it easy. It makes it really, and a lot, it allows us to do less set ups, which takes less time, which is fantastic. My friend was like so what, like it’s a 22 minute show, how long does it take to shoot an episode, like four hours? And I was like no, five days. She was like, well, four hours every, every… I was like no. It’s a long week, you know, which is kind of amazing to think of how long it takes and how many angles and all that different stuff how long it takes to shoot 22 minutes.
Q: How long are the kids allowed to work?
Tracee: I don’t know legally what they are allowed to do. There’s blocks of school that they have to get in throughout the day. There’s a big calendar. And the tutor literally marks out the blocks of time that they do for school. So they have hard outs on lunch, like Anthony and I can do grace, like after lunch we can push lunch later. The kids can’t.
On Fridays they can shoot till 10 o’clock, but only on Fridays. So you’ll bring them in, it still means that their hours are the same, but you can start later ’cause they can go later. So if there’s night scenes, you can only have them till 10 o’clock. So there’s a lot of protection and, you know, the younger kids are 10 and 11, and then Marcus and Yara are both 15. I think when they turn 16, there’s like 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, yeah.
Q: How great is it to work with such talented actors?
Tracee: Honestly, talent aside, yes they’re talented, but they’re wonderful people. It’s really joyful, I have to say. There’s that myth, don’t work with kids who are animals. [LAUGHING.] I can’t understand that. I had such a good experience. I find that you can say it this way, they’ve been on the planet for less time than us and they’re not jaded, like they just have a pure joy that you can’t, I mean, when you see Miles and Marsai in the morning, they run towards you for a huddle up.
It’s, it’s magic. I mean, there’s only so bad that they can be, right? And 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 know, 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, you know, a really good metaphor that I was really happy about, because he loves basketball, I was like well it’s like who had the ball. And 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? That way you stay in the scene and you stay in the game, right?
So I was really proud of myself. 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.
Q: Are you mothering them also?
Tracee: 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 they’re and it’s amazing to me. They’re kids and when they get tired, they have to keep working.
Q: We met Marcus yesterday. He’s great.
Tracee: He’s so talented. I think he’s a little comic genius. No, I do. I think they’re, 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, like it just kind of was there genuinely from the beginning, but it’s only growing like the, the more interesting. We’ve been working together now, it’s like a year-and-a-half, like we’ve all been, so we really know each other and there’s a sense of safety and connection, so it’s really, it’s really special.
Q: About the last episode with Brown University, you went there.
Tracee: I did. One of our Executive Producers, ah, also went to Brown. And it was really fun, because they got to kind of work it in and Anthony actually went to Howard.
Q: As a biracial, how important is it to you to get that story out there?
Tracee: 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, like that wouldn’t feel honest, but in terms of what my character’s doing, I leave that to the writers and it’s like kind of like magic when you get the new script because you’re like this is crazy or hilarious but it’s not me. It’s not my story.
Q: Do you have any input on your wardrobe? Any designers you love to wear?
Tracee: I do have input, but we have a wonderful costume department led by Michelle Cole, who’s a very incredible, and been doing this for, this is so funny, been doing this forever. I do have input but they do the shopping. I don’t really specify any designers.
It’s so great to not put heels on. I really wanted to bring to Beau is that she dressed hair and makeup wise really like a woman that had authentically, like I don’t, I don’t know a mother of four with a career and a husband and like all of that that can spend a ton of time putting together looks and like 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 like is sort of her 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 like a dress and sneakers or jeans and a cute top. It’s not like 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 ’cause we’re about to go back to another scene where I need to be, you know, have my mascara on, but mostly I try to be authentic and like 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 so funny.
Q: Do you have a favorite episode?
Tracee: I really liked the Church episode. In terms of funny, 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 that, I just overall, I thought it was a great one. I loved the N-word episode just because I thought that writing-wise, like that subject was handled like pitch perfect in my opinion. And that was such a difficult, like 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 like where even for my character, which I liked, she had such a stanch like clear, no hate speech whatsoever, but when I was her kid, she got tangled, and I just thought that was so real. It was like she all of a sudden was like a little bit on the fence like maybe it’s okay.
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 mo, 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.
I hope you enjoyed this interview! It was very cool to see the set and chat with the main star!
Disclosure – I received an all expense paid trip to Los Angeles. All opinions are my own.