Kenya Barris opens up about viewers’ reaction to his new Netflix show #BlackAF and discusses his divorce from his wife.
Barris is the creator of several hit shows, including Black-ish, Grown-ish, Mixed-ish, and now his new series on Netflix, #BlackAF. Like most of Barris’ shows, “#BlackAF gently replicates some of Barris’ real-life experiences on screen. During a sit-down on #TI’s podcast Expeditiously, Barris addressed some of the backlash he received from fans who called out the show for having a predominately light-skinned cast.
“People have called me and told me ‘this is my favorite show,’ people have called me and said, ‘I hate this,’” explained Barris. The showrunner then spoke on how people were critiquing #RashidaJones, who plays his wife on the show, for being cast. Barris explained that, like Jones, his wife is also biracial, which is why he cast the actress.
“I won’t speak on Rashida, but I will say this about her: she’s the only person I ever wanted to do that role. She did it in a way that is perfect. She held me up and carried me through that. I feel like she’s done a pitch-perfect job. This was based on my family. She’s playing a version of my wife, who is biracial. My kids look like those kids, who are amazing. If you dug just a little bit under the surface, you will find this is biographical,” said Barris.
While he and his wife are portrayed as married on screen, in reality, Barris and his wife, Dr. Raina, “Rainbow” Barris Edwards, are filing for divorce. The two were married back in 1999 and share six children together. This is the second time the couple has filed for divorce. The first time was in 2014, but they reconciled and withdrew the documents in 2015, according to Bossip. The two have reignited the divorce, and Barris says it’s the “the toughest thing I’ve ever been through in my life.”
“It is part of life. When I was growing up, we didn’t have—I never saw Cliff and Clair argue. If you look at sitcoms and our stories, we’re supposed to be okay. But 52% of marriages don’t work. And the notion of understanding—We didn’t know about therapy or really understand it. We didn’t know about really having the church or other married friends that would have given us the skeleton to make it in another sort of way. So I feel like talking about that to a generation of people who might be going through what I’m going through, it makes them say, ‘Hey, there’s other people out there like me. Maybe we can make it. Maybe we can’t.’ I just want to be as real with my sh*t as possible. It is the toughest thing I’ve ever been through in my life,” said Barris.
He went on to say that the divorce makes it hard for his children as well, “Somehow, some f*cked up way, it got announced on my birthday I didn’t file on my birthday, but it got announced on my birthday. I don’t know that people care about me getting divorced. I’m not anybody, especially at that point. And all of a sudden, it’s in the papers as I’m getting off the plane coming from Atlanta. I have my wife calling me. I have my daughter, who’s a sophomore at USC, calling me. I have my daughter, who’s a senior in high school, calling me because her friends are talking about it. I’m just not used to…it’s a different world than I ever expected, and I’m trying to experience it with the audience in real-time. This is all happening to me as it’s happening on air.”