While Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross were the Emmy-nominated stars of ABC’s “Black-ish” for eight culture-changing seasons, Jenifer Lewis and Deon Cole were the sitcom’s secret weapons.
And as they say goodbye to their characters Ruby Johnson and Charlie Telphy — the mother and co-worker, respectively, of Andre Johnson (Anderson) — when the “Black-ish” series finale airs Tuesday, April 19 at 9 p.m., Lewis and Cole are more than proud of the show’s legacy in portraying the African-American experience.
“We made history – and I’m extremely proud of that,” Lewis, 65, told The Post. “We’ve done a great job of entertaining people – and we’ve done a great job of educating people. We made them think, dance, sing and hope. That’s what we did… We touched people’s souls with our show.
“Nobody else was telling these stories,” added Cole, 50. “It opened the door for a lot of black shows… We started seeing more black shows showing different perspectives of black people.”
Indeed, the “movement” described by Cole includes “Black-ish” spinoff “Grown-ish” – which has been renewed for a fifth season on Freeform – as well as the now canceled “Mixed-ish”.
Lewis credits “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris for his “fearless” vision as well as the show’s writers. “I’ve always said the screenwriters were the stars of ‘Black-ish’,” she said, “with them able to combine the comedy and drama of issues like the N-word, police brutality, postpartum depression I mean they hit on all that [with] the multigenerational aspect of the show.
Cole points to the show’s Juneteenth episode in 2017 as a real game-changer. “I remember shooting that episode… going through the facts and the story of it,” Cole said. “I remember really educating [white costars Peter Mackenzie and Jeff Meacham]. And there were black people on set who didn’t know it either.
In fact, Cole credits “Black-ish” with helping ensure that Juneteenth – marking the freeing of the last American slaves on June 19, 1865 – was declared a federal holiday in 2021. “Absolutely – 100%” Black -ish “had something to do with it,” he said. “It was amazing to see the power of what we did. We did it with a lot of things.
For Lewis, the final season episode starring Michelle Obama was a highlight of his series. “When Michelle Obama walked on set, you could hear a pin drop,” she said. “We were all so excited and honoured. The former first lady of the United States of America was there with the family, hugging us with her whole being, sweetie… She said to me, “My mom told me to say hello to you. And honey, you couldn’t talk to me for days after that.
Lewis and her “Black-ish” husband Laurence Fishburne — who also served as one of the show’s executive producers — date back to Tina Turner’s 1993 biopic “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” in which they played mother-brother-in-law and son-in-law.
“We became like sister and brother on the set of ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It,'” she said. “So when they called me and told me about a show called ‘Black-ish’ and they said Laurence Fishburne’s name, I said, ‘Baby, you got me at good morning. ”
Now Lewis – who is known as Mother of Black Hollywood – will continue to co-star with Vanessa Bayer and Molly Shannon in the Showtime comedy “I Love That for You,” which premieres April 29. Meanwhile, Cole is shooting the musical remake of “The Color Purple,” slated for 2023, and will star in the upcoming BET+ dark comedy “Average Joe.”
And no doubt, “Black-ish” will live on in reruns forever. “These episodes will resonate forever,” Cole said. “They will resonate until the world becomes different.”
New York Post