Tracee Ellis Ross after eight years of being part of the popular TV show Black-ish, the actress looks back on how her ABC sitcom [final season aired on Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET] changed her for the better.
In this industry, sometimes people say, “I wrote this part for you.” I’ve heard that multiple times. In fact, I remember there was once a casting breakdown and it said, “Looking for a Tracee Ellis Ross type,” but they would not even see me. The journey of being a Black woman in Hollywood, to keep rising above other people’s limited ideas of who I should be and what kind of roles I should be playing, has been interesting.
You see, I did very well on Girlfriends. I can’t say that I did as well as many of my counterparts who’d done eight years on a successful show, but I’d saved well and not overspent. But I also was in a position where the money was starting to disappear, so I accepted an offer to fly to New York for a paid speaking engagement. I was there already when they told me that Black-ish creator Kenya Barris apparently “wrote this part for you,” and that week was my only chance to audition back in L.A. I needed that speaking money, so I had to decide if I was willing to eat the cost of the flights and not get paid.
I was also hesitant about playing a mother. I was not one in real life. I still am not one. And 10 years ago I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to hold on to my identity enough that I would continue to book great roles and not be carted off on the canoe to nowhere as an “older mother.”
But I fell in love with the script. We got to see a Black family that was thriving and not just surviving. And I was drawn to this loving relationship between a couple. I had rarely seen that on sitcoms — there wasn’t just constant eye-rolling. And Rainbow was a woman who was more than just one thing: She was not just a wife. She was not just a mother. She was also a doctor. She had a real point of view.
So I took the leap of faith, got on a flight back from New York in the middle of a snowstorm, and prayed, “Please get me home on time.” I was so tired that I fell asleep outside the audition. But I walked in that room and look at me now.
After eight seasons, we’re now saying a beautiful goodbye. I say “beautiful” because Girlfriends, which also went eight seasons, did not have a proper goodbye. (We ended during the writers’ strike, without knowing we were ending. We never even had a wrap party.) So to be able to walk into the end of this show, I’m left with so much joy and pride. I really loved dancing with my onscreen husband, Anthony Anderson. And it was the honor of my life to witness and be a part of these beautiful children growing up before our eyes — these talented individuals who became wonderful young adults while we were on the show.
And I grew as well. I became a better person. Black-ish was an opportunity for me to be free and to shine and to embody all my values; to be able to strive for a level of excellence in the work that I do, and how I interact with the people that I work with, and to be of service and fight for equity and joy on a daily basis.