While in Los Angeles for The Good Dinosaur premiere event, I had the opportunity to visit the set of black-ish on the Disney Studios Lot and meet the amazing Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays Dr. Rainbow “Bow” Johnson on the show. She showed us around the Johnson home and told us some fun behind-the-scenes scoop from the hit ABC Show.
Have you watched ABC’s black-ish yet? If not, you are really missing out. I didn’t start watching it until I read this article by 7 on a Shoestring and I was intrigued with the show. Black-ish follows a black family, The Johnsons, adjusting to suburban life, ok really, it’s the DAD who is having trouble adjusting and he is hysterical. Played by Anthony Anderson, Dre Johnson is a cut-up. But he is not he only one that carries the show. The Johnson children, played by Yara Shahidi (Zoey), Marcus Scribner (Andre Jr.), Marsai Martin (Diane) and Miles Brown (Jack), are all fantastic actors on their own.
And then there is Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays the mom, Rainbow Johnson. She, my friends, is a modern-day Lucille Ball. Known for her roles on Girlfriends and Reed Between the Lines, Ross is also the daughter of singing legend, Diana Ross. But you would never know it. She introduced herself personally to all 26 of us writers with a smile, a handshake, and a “I’m Tracee. Nice to meet you.”
Walking Tour of the black-ish Set
Ross gave us an in-depth tour of the Johnson home on the black-ish set, which I will tell you all about next week. During the tour, Ross was funny, personable and so very easy to talk to. She showed us places where she hides her script so she can quickly refer to her lines and even told us a bit about how the filming takes place.
Along the way, we were able to casually ask her a few questions to get to know her better and hear about her time on the hit show.
Q&A with Tracee Ellis Ross
People often think that shows are quickly filmed in a few hours but Ross set us straight on that, telling us that a typical episode will take 5 days to shoot.
[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”lifted-both” width=”auto” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]”It’s a long week. It’s kind of amazing to think of how long it takes and how many angles there are to shoot 22 minutes.” [/dropshadowbox]
Given that there are 4 children in the show, they have to shoot around their school work, which is on set, and the minor protection laws. It makes for a complicated schedule to get all the shooting down in one week.
Working with the Kids of Black-ish
Ross really enjoyed working with the kids on the set of black-ish as she had nothing but wonderful things to say about them.
[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”lifted-both” width=”auto” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]“I think they’re wonderful, we’re really blessed. There’s such a natural connection between all of us that was genuinely there from the beginning. We’ve been working together now for a year-and-a-half, so we really know each other and there’s a sense of safety and connection. Yt’s really, really special.” [/dropshadowbox]
The connection that you see on the show is genuine as Ross talked about how Miles & Marsai, who play twins, Jack & Diane, run up to her each morning to give her a hug. And she spoke lovingly of how she came up with an analogy for Miles to better understand the meaning of focus. It’s so good, I may use it with my kids:
[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”lifted-both” width=”auto” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]“Because he [Miles] loves basketball, I told him focus is like ‘who had the ball.’ And so now that’s what I say, “who has the ball?” But even if he doesn’t have the ball, we have to stay in the scene and you stay in the game, right?” [/dropshadowbox]
Most TV moms are just not realistic. They wear high heels around the house and they have lipstick on when they wake up in the morning. But not Bow Johnson. Bow doesn’t wear heels, which Ross finds liberating. Ross doesn’t wear a lot of make-up and you will notice on the show that Bow doesn’t either. Ross wanted Bow to appear like she pulls jeans and sneakers from the closet, like any other mom would.
[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”lifted-both” width=”auto” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]”What I really wanted to bring to Bow is that she dressed hair and makeup wise, like an authentic woman. I don’t know a mother of four with a career and a husband that can spend a ton of time putting together looks and doing the whole thing.” [/dropshadowbox]
Hard to Choose a Favorite Episode
We all have our favorite episodes and definitely the ones we remembered (how about the season opener this year?). Ross had a hard time picking an episode that she liked the best. She loved the Churched episode and felt it came together so beautifully. And she was impressed with how the kids of black-ish handled the fight scene in the Halloween episode from this year.
But she spoke so eloquently about the N-word episode:
[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”lifted-both” width=”auto” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]“I loved the N-word episode because I thought that writing-wise, that subject was handled pitch perfect in my opinion. And that was such a difficult topic to make funny, somehow they did, and yet we weren’t laughing at the word.” [/dropshadowbox]
It was an interesting episode as we were a part of a real, everyday situation where Ross’s character had to change her point-of-view on no-tolerence on hate speech when it was her son involved. How many times do we as mom’s have a situation where our kid’s actions cause us to think twice about a decision?
Our family is a fan of the show and after meeting with Ross, I’m a HUGE fan of hers as well. And how could I not be? Especially when she had this to say about our visit?
Make sure you watch tonight’s episode of black-ish.
We 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. Black-ish airs on Wednesdays at 9:30/8:30 Central on ABC.
Check out more of the fun we had on the #GoodDinoEvent press trip:
Making of Disney Junior’s The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar
LIVE Taping of Dancing with the Stars
Creation of The Good Dinosaur with Director Peter Sohn
The Good Dinosaur Red Carpet Movie Premiere
The Good Dinosaur Toys & Disney Infinity 3.0
4 Things You Will Learn from Disney Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur
Disclaimer: Disney sent me to Los Angeles on an all-expenses paid press trip, in exchange for my coverage of the black-ish set visit. All opinions are my own.