'Black-ish' Creator On Bringing 'The N-Word' Back To Television

"I’m scared because you always want to tell good stories and you want to do it in a way to get people talking."
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In its first season, ABC’s popular comedy series, “ black-ish” delivered on a mission to raise awareness around various topics on race and family, and that objective hasn't changed as the show gears up for a fall premiere.

The show’s sophomore season will address topics including health care and other issues affecting the black community, as well as dialogue surrounding the use of "the n-word."

Starting these types of conversations on primetime network television, says show creator Kenya Barris, can come with high risks and high rewards.

“There’s a lot of stuff that we’re going to cover, and I’m scared because you always want to tell good stories and you want to do it in a way to get people talking,” he told The Huffington Post. “But at the same time, some of those same stories are the ones that you sort of put into a corner and I hope that people are understanding and like the way that we’re doing it.”

The second season premiere features scenes of the Johnson family attempting to dissect the usage of "the n-word," which characters say and is bleeped in the scene above. Barris said he was previously apprehensive about highlighting the word on the show, but has since changed his mind and feels the premiere episode will be a good entry point to dissecting the term on television.

"One of the things that we hoped would take off [in season one] was topic-driven humor. So we are going to definitely try to talk about some topics that people talk about. In our premiere episode we talk about the N-word and we thought it would be a entry point into that subject in an interesting way to handle it and show different sides of the conversation."

In fact, Barris likens his attempt to expanding dialogue around the word on network television similar to how legendary TV producer, Norman Lear once discussed race on black sitcoms. The Los Angeles native feels Lear's approach to tackling race relations directly -- with characters using the n-word -- on shows like "Sanford and Son" and "The Jeffersons" during the 1970s is a void that’s missing from today’s lineup of shows.

“I’m a huge fan of Norman Lear's work, and I think in some ways, a lot of what I’m doing is a derivative of that,” Barris said. “So I feel like it was interesting to me that I went to this sort of dry dessert in the TV landscape of comedy that really was not addressed to the world. Comedies are really good filters to actually talk about things, so the fact that they were doing and talking about things years ago that we’re not doing now, kind of feels counterintuitive.”

Barris went on to credit the black political movements of the 1960s and 1970s as one of the leading reasons why Lear's brand of television -- addressing race and social issues -- was important during its era, with the same significance and sense of urgency it has today.

“I think the time period was coming off the cusp of a revolutionary period and people needed that in their lives,” he said. “But I feel like with everything that’s going on, we need it again. So hopefully my show and other shows can use that window to sort of reach people.”

"black-ish" airs Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. EDT on ABC.

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