Tracee Ellis Ross Explains Why She Didn't Want Her 'Black-ish' Character Doing 'Lady Chores'

tracee ellis ross at 2020 vf oscar party
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Tracee Ellis Ross had one major request for her character on Black-ish. During an interview on the L.A. Times' Can’t Stop Watching podcast, the 47-year-old actress revealed one thing she spoke out about "from the beginning" of the show, in which she plays Bow Johnson, a mom and doctor who's married to Dre Johnson (Anthony Anderson).

"Why am I carrying laundry? Why am I the person in the kitchen cooking right now, when this has nothing to do with the scene?" Ross recalled asking. "Even sometimes when it does have something to do with the scene."

Ross explained that she coined the tasks "lady chores," and remembered asking, "Why am I doing the lady chores? Can’t Anthony do the lady chore?"

"I don’t believe they’re 'lady chores.' I think they’re house chores. And I don’t believe that we should assume, because I believe every relationship is a negotiation between two people about what each of them feel comfortable doing," she said. "I think the more that we portray that on television, the more that that becomes the reality out in the world, or matches the reality that the world actually is."

Even when so-called "lady chores" appear to "match the experience of the scene," Ross, who was recently nominated for an Emmy for her work on the series, makes to sure to confirm that's the case.

"I always take a bird's eye view and look back at the context of television, at the context of being a woman on television, at the context of being a Black woman on television, and how can we tell a fuller story?" she said. "... How do I hold the space and keep asking our writers, 'Why is she doing this?' And how can, in the moments that I am on screen, how can I bring the fullness of the life that was happening off-screen to that moment?"

"Which usually means a point of view. What do I feel about this thing that's happening? I'm not here to service my husband's jokes, or my husband's life, or my husband's choices," she continued. "I have my own choices, I have my own point of view. All of those things, which seem small, they make a huge difference in the way a character comes off the screen."

It's Ross' love for the ABC sitcom that makes her question her character's motivations and needs during each and every scene she does.

"I was in love with the role from the start. There were things about it that concerned me, but that's with any role... I fell in love with the idea on Black-ish that this was a couple that was in love with each other. That this was a family that was surviving and not thriving. And that this was the story of a Black man in America that is not often told," she said. "And that this is an American family. But we were a Black family. We weren't a family that happened to be Black, we were a Black family."

"Those things were incredibly exciting to me. The fact that this was a couple that loved each other and liked each other, and that the comedy at the core of this show was not based in two people that didn't like each other that was going to play into the tropes that always exist of the nagging wife and the husband who can't do what he wants because the wife is always nagging," Ross continued. "That kind of comedy between a couple to me doesn't continue to expand our understanding of the male and female roles."

Watch the video below to see ET's latest interview with the actress.


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