How ‘black-ish’ Sparked Conversations Along with Laughter

For eight seasons, the groundbreaking, Emmy® Award–nominated comedy series black-ish was lauded for telling stories that shined a light on current events through the lens of a Black American family. Created by Kenya Barris, black-ish debuted in 2014 to critical acclaim, and its popularity launched two spinoff series: grown-ish and mixed-ish.

The series finale, titled “Homecoming,” will air tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC, marking the end of an era for cast members Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, Miles Brown, Marsai Martin, Laurence Fishburne, Jenifer Lewis, Peter Mackenzie, Deon Cole, and Jeff Meacham, as well as for Courtney Lilly, who joined the writers’ room in season one and was promoted to showrunner in season six.

black-ish was always intended not just to make audiences laugh, but to make them think about real issues—in effect, sparking bigger conversations. ”What Kenya wanted was to show people a peek behind the curtains on the conversations that go on in contemporary Black households. It was a guiding principle as we wrote,” Lilly says. “We knew we needed to be funny, but it also had to be true. That quest for truth is what allowed so many on the cast and crew to see themselves in the show, regardless of background, which in turn allowed them to bring their best to the production.”

Among nearly 200 episodes, Lilly says he is most proud of “Juneteenth,” which kicked off the series’ fourth season in 2017. The episode focused on an 1865 version of the Johnson family celebrating the day slaves were told they were freed in the U.S. “It was such an ambitious one for us. Kenya Barris had a vision for what he wanted, and he and Peter Saji wrote a great script that the whole team—cast, crew, guest actors and musicians—executed,” Lilly recalls. “And it told a story that up until that point had been largely overlooked—at least in popular media. It’s one that will always stand out.”

black-ish, produced by ABC Signature, a part of Disney Television Studios, has received numerous accolades over the years, from a Peabody Award in 2015 to a Golden Globe® Award for Ross (Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy) in 2017. But for Lilly, the series’ legacy not about how many honors it received—it’s about how many people its stories touched. “I know so many people who watch with their families,” Lilly explains, “so I hope that in 10 or so years, I’ll be working with comedy writers who’ll be able to tell me how they got into the business because of black-ish.”