Kenya Barris Dives Into That Shelved, Anti-Trump 'Black-Ish' Episode, His Plans To Be 'Unapologetic' At Netflix And More
Photo Credit: S & A

Kenya Barris Dives Into That Shelved, Anti-Trump 'Black-Ish' Episode, His Plans To Be 'Unapologetic' At Netflix And More

In an in-depth new feature with The Hollywood ReporterKenya Barris has broken his silence on his ABC Studios exit, that Black-ish anti-Trump episode that ABC pulled, his move to Netflix and much, much more.

Here are some main points we took from the long-ranging interview:

The plot of the shelved Black-ish episode: 

The description of the episode was the following: “Dre, the Johnson family patriarch played by Anthony Anderson, was telling his infant son, Devante, a bedtime story that reflected on the events of his first year on the planet. It was a mix of political allegory (an animated fairy tale about a character named The Shady King) and actuality (news footage of Donald Trump, the Charlottesville attacks and the NFL kneeling protests). Of the episode, Barris said, “When you’re putting a baby to sleep, you’re trying to soothe whatever anxieties they’re having. So, this was about me trying to pat the butt of the country and soothe people.”

Production was higher than the typical $3 million an episode due to rights and clearances like using “A Change Is Gonna Come” (he met personally with Sam Cooke’s goddaughter to secure the rights). He also tapped Spike Lee to do a voiceover (the title of the episode and inspiration for it were from a children’s book from Spike and Tonya Lewis Lee). The episode also shifted focus from a typical Black-ish structure. “Rather than focus on the entire Johnson clan, as Black-ish typically does, the episode centered primarily on Dre and his interpretation of real-world events presented to his son as a form of catharsis,” reads the story.

The script for that episode has vanished off the face of the earth:

A rep says that the script has been “wiped from the planet,” and THR states that “even key cast members can’t get their hands on a completed episode.” Anthony Anderson reportedly wants to get it out because it is a “powerful 22 minutes of television,” but Barris doesn’t want it out, saying, “I hope it doesn’t (leak) because I’ll be looked at as the blame for it, and I’ll f**king get sued.”

It wasn’t just about the anti-Trump episode, but a full “quadruple blow,” consisting of:

(1) ABC’s decision to pass on Barris’ timely, interracial political family comedy starring Courtney B. Vance and Felicity Huffman, despite ordering reshoots; (2) Not going forward with his woman-centric CIA dramedy starring Toni Colette, (3) Moving the Yara Shahidi-led Black-ish spinoff, Grown-ish, to the less-viewed, younger-skewing Freeform and (4) Black-ish moving out of its time slot after Modern Family. A single project did not move forward at ABC. “I’m aware when my things aren’t good. But I’d (gladly) have a forum and show these pilots to the world. If I’m crazy, judge me. I’ve done things where I’m like, ‘Ugh, that wasn’t right;’ these were not that. And it just becomes so frustrating,” he said.

How he was prepared to speak out against Roseanne if ABC didn’t:

Barris was prepared to comment on the matter. “Because f**k Roseanne,” he told THR. “She’s a f**kin’ monster. And they were like, ‘Why is this monster killing villagers?’ And I was like, ‘Because that’s what a monster does.'”

On moving to Netflix:

“If I was going to step out, I wanted to do something where I could take off all the straps and really hang out of the plane. I want to be Netflix with attitude — loud, bold and unapologetic.”

Read the full interview, which is a super great read, over at The Hollywood Reporter. 


Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

© 2023 Shadow & Act. All rights reserved.