Kenya Barris Says He’s Not Colorist But His Shows Look Like They Were Cast Using The Paper Bag Test

Written by Ann Brown
Ever looked at the casts of Kenya Barris’ TV shows? Actors of “black-ish” and “mixed-ish” tend to be the same hue and critics are calling Barris a colorist.. Kenya Barris on set / Image Vice

Have you ever really looked at the casts of Kenya Barris’ TV shows? The actors of “black-ish” and “mixed-ish” tend to be of the same hue, leaving critics to wonder why Barris has failed to cast more than a couple of dark-skinned actors. 

The cast of his latest series, “Black Excellence” — the writer’s first series in his three-year, eight-figure deal with Netflix — seems to follow suit. But Barris has shot back at the criticism, saying he is not a colorist. “Black Excellence,” like his other creations, is semi-autobiographical and centers around an upper-middle-class Black family who becomes rich.

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Barris, who left ABC, has cast Rashida Jones, Genneya Walton, Scarlet Spencer, Iman Benson, Justin Claiborne, and Ravi Cabot-Conyers for “Black Excellence.” When the cast was announced, the news went viral and criticism flowed, Essence reported.

Barris answered by saying: “I’m…not gonna make up a fake family that genetically makes no sense just for the sake of trying to fill quotas. I LOVE MY PEOPLE,” he wrote. “(And) everything I does (sic) reflects that love. But to cast people like some kinda skin color Allstar game would actually do more harm than good.”

The executive producer added that he “hardly ever react(s) to social media but this cut me a little.”

Of the cast of “Black Excellence, he said: “These kids look like my kids. My very Black REAL kids & they face discrimination every day from others outside our culture and I don’t want them to also see it from US.”

When “mixed-ish was picked up, there was a darker-skinned actress placed in the role of Tika Sumpter. Tracee Ellis Ross, who serves as executive producer for the series, reported decided that she wanted a woman who looked more like her real-life mother, Diana Ross, MadameNoire reported.