Famous Friday!

Famous Friday: Marcus Scribner

Marcus-Scribner_0039

You could say Marcus Scribner plays himself. The 17 year old actor who stars as Andre Johnson Jr. (Dre), the teenage son ABC’s comedy, Black-ish, has an awful lot in common with the character he plays.

“They tell the exact stories that go down in our household,” Marcus told Teen Vogue magazine. “Every single week it feels like they have cameras in our house because we have the same conversations.”

On the show and in real life, Marcus’s mom is multiracial and his dad, Troy, is black. Marcus says that being on the show has helped him embrace his multiracial identity.

“Being on Black-ish really taught me that that’s something special and to be proud of being multiracial. It’s something that’s cool and definitely, I hold dear to my heart.”

Marcus has won an NAACP Image Award for the popular show. Black-ish has been honored with the prestigious “Peabody Award,” multiple “NAACP” Awards, and “Emmy” nominations.

Marcus seems to be an exceptional teen and a great young man. When he’s not acting, he can be found traveling the world doing all kinds of good! He is passionate about environmentalism, children and animals. The Beaches Resorts and Sandals Foundation named him their first Youth Ambassador. He has visited several islands in the Caribbean helping to bring a higher education to children. He is also the Chief Youth Innovator for Reserve Protection Agency in South Africa, helping to protect Africa’s animals.

Marcus was born in Los Angeles and has a younger sister named Athena. Greek names are prevalent in their family – even for their pets. As busy as his acting and humanitarian work keeps him, Marcus still manages to be an honor student working hard towards his next dream of attending a great college like Stanford or UCLA.

Karson Baldwin, Project RACE Teens President

photo credit: Teen Vogue

Black-huh?

Black-huh?

I’ve been waiting to see “black-ish,” a new TV comedy show brought to our living rooms by ABC. I was suspect of a show in which multiracial people are trying to be more black, whatever that means. I admit to not liking the premise, but I decided be fair and to give the pilot show a try before I just panned it. You’re welcome to dislike my take on it, and you’ll find one by The New York Times right below it, in case you want a more unbiased review. They think the show “taps racial issues.” I would say it hits you over the head with racial stereotypes that aren’t funny, no matter who is saying it.

It’s one thing to find a comedy not funny, but this one is also in really bad taste. In one of the first scenes, the husband tells his wife she is a “pigment-challenged mixed-race woman” and he’s off and running, denigrating just about every race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion he can in the first 15 minutes.

While I was doing a slow burn at the executives at ABC who let this thing be aired, my husband was very quiet. Too quiet. The break for commercials was an unusually welcomed moment for both of us. Then he said it. The reason black-ish is not a new version of Bill Cosby’s Huxtables. He said the truth: The show is not funny. My husband has a pretty good sense of humor and not one thing about this show caused him to let go with as much as a single laugh. Not one. Nada.

I’m Jewish, so the part about the teenage son having a Bar Mitzvah, was really offensive. But enough about me.

The official premise of the show is how a black man, married to a “mixed race” woman with four multiracial children, feels his family moving away from its roots and becoming more white. But trust me, this is not Alex Haley’s Roots gone awry, it’s more like All in the Family, but from a kind of twisted black perspective. Imagine Kunta Kinte as Archie Bunker. The fact is that Archie Bunker would not even be a comedy in 2014—it would be too offensive. Black-ish should take a big hint and just go away-ish.

Susan Graham

 

New York Times Television Review

A Family Rooted in Two Realms

‘black-ish,’ a New ABC Comedy, Taps Racial Issues

“black-ish”: Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson play the parents of a family struggling with what it means to be prosperous in this ABC comedy, beginning on Wednesday night.

Adam Taylor / ABC

ShareA lot of people in the television business are said to be curious to see how “black-ish,” ABC’s new comedy, is received when it has its premiere on Wednesday night. What they should really be curious about, though, is where the series goes after its funny but talking-point-heavy first episode.

The sitcom centers on a black family in Los Angeles, the Johnsons, struggling with prosperity. Andre (Anthony Anderson) works at an advertising agency; in the premiere, he’s on the verge of a major promotion. Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) is an anesthesiologist. Their four children are smart and adorable.

If this puts you in mind of the Huxtables of “The Cosby Show,” that’s no accident. But more than the Huxtables ever were, the Johnsons are wrestling with whether their comfortable lives are causing them to forget that they’re black.

Well, Andre is doing most of the wrestling. The other family members display varying degrees of indifference to the issue, and therein lies the comedy. Andre, we learn in an introductory voice-over, grew up in less-than-middle-class fashion, and success leaves him conflicted.

“I guess for a kid from the ’hood, I’m living the American dream,” he explains. “The only problem is, whatever American had this dream probably wasn’t where I’m from. And if he was, he should have mentioned the part about how when brothers start getting a little money, stuff starts getting a little weird.”

The episode then visits in rapid succession — always comically — a formidable range of issues Andre encounters as a result of this duality. At work, he worries that he is receiving a promotion only because he’s black. At his computer, he laments that white celebrities are intruding on black culture.

At home, he tells his lighter-skinned wife — a “pigment-challenged mixed-race woman,” he calls her — that she’s not black enough. He is dismayed that his older son is trying out for field hockey instead of basketball. The dinner table discussion (yes, we’ve found the last family in America that still eats together around a dinner table) focuses on whether the children know that Barack Obama is the first black president. Even fried chicken comes in for scrutiny, although not from Andre, but from his father, winningly played by Laurence Fishburne.

It’s all gentle as can be. “Black-ish” may be full of racial themes, but it’s working a gimmick that transcends race: Dad as buffoon.

Mr. Anderson, a familiar face from “Law & Order” and other shows, fills this untaxing archetype just fine, serving as the comic punch line for everyone else. You know the formula: Dad behaves clumsily; Dad has eyes opened; episode ends in compromise (in this case, a not very convincing one).

If that’s going to be the pattern for this series, it will probably stay amusing enough. But the ingredients are in place for something substantial here: The cast is decent, and there’s a willingness to at least voice race-related themes that you won’t hear on many other shows.

The premiere, after voicing them, mostly just laughs them away. Kenya Barris, the creator of “black-ish,” has told The Huffington Post that “it’s a really important time for this show to air,” given the Obama presidency and recent race-related headlines.

But, in the same interview, he said, “I am not trying to get on a pulpit and preach.” Yes, the show will be funny, in an innocuous sort of way, if it continues to stay off that pulpit. But if it becomes a little less cautious occasionally, it might rise from merely diverting to important.

black-ish

Produced by ABC Studios. Created by Kenya Barris; Mr. Barris, Larry Wilmore, Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Sugland and E. Brian Dobbins, executive producers.

WITH: Anthony Anderson (Andre Johnson), Tracee Ellis Ross (Rainbow Johnson), Yara Shahidi (Zoey Johnson), Marcus Scribner (Andre Johnson Jr.), Miles Brown (Jack Johnson), Marsai Martin (Diane Johnson) and Laurence Fishburne (Pops).

The New York Times