Women in TV 2015: Tracee Ellis Ross in ‘black-ish’

Women in TV 2015: Tracee Ellis Ross in ‘black-ish’


Seth Plattner, Culture Editor

This article appears in the February 2015 issue of ELLE magazine.

Clones and copywriters. Journalists and sex scientists. Cult survivors and carnival acts. These actors fearlessly take on roles that are all over the map. So what do they have in common? A gift for delivering complex female characters who always leave us wanting just one more episode, please!

There are on-screen moms—and then there are Prime-Time Matriarchs. Thanks to Tracee Ellis Ross, Rainbow “Bow” Johnson of ABC’s Black-ish may just be the next Clair Huxtable or Marge Simpson. She first played the den-mother type in a group of four friends living in Los Angeles on UPN/The CW’s Girlfriends. On Black-ish, Ross, 42, is now lending that warmth (and many a sideways glance) to a traditional family setup and an audience of nearly 8 million viewers per week.

Bow is an anesthesiologist who, with her ad-man husband, Dre (Anthony Anderson), is raising four precocious kids in upper-class suburban L.A.—and has to constantly deal with Dre’s concern that their family isn’t adequately in touch with all that it means to be black. In exploring that issue through one family, Black-ish makes race not a thing by making it a thing. “In 1950, the black experience was specific,” says Ross, a former model who is the daughter of Diana Ross and Robert Ellis Silberstein. “But in this day and age, it isn’t. Race, culture, family, socioeconomics, tradition—we’re pulling from all those places to pull the whole conversation forward.”

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