The New Yorker Festival 2017 Spotlight: Tracee Ellis Ross. The “Black-ish” actress speaks with Doreen St. Felix about her artful elevation of the situational comedy. By Doreen St. Félix. September 21, 2017. Photograph by Terry Tsiolis. Tracee Ellis ...and more »
Tracee Ellis Ross is one of television’s most dedicated, and most enthralling, comedians. For nearly two decades, she has played an array of thoroughly modern women with side-splitting specificity. We met Joan Clayton in 2000, and watched, for eight years of “Girlfriends,” as the neurotic California lawyer found herself alternately supported and frustrated by female friendship. In 2014, in “Black-ish,” Ross introduced us to Dr. Rainbow Johnson, a harried, professional mother shepherding her children through an America increasingly polarized by class. In her own way, Ross has elevated the sitcom, and its mandate to make art out of relatable characters.
And, in doing so, Ross has made history. Last year, she accepted the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Comedy, becoming the first black woman to win the award in thirty-five years. She dedicated it to “women of color and colorful people.” Ross has an instinct for glamour and for politics, her maternal inheritance. At eleven, along with her mother, Diana Ross, and her sister, she posed for Andy Warhol. At eighteen, she walked in Thierry Mugler’s major “Butterfly” show, in Paris, alongside the iconic supermodels of the day. Ross brings fashion’s aplomb and an empathetic sense of style to her characters: aspirational black women in comedic worlds that are similar to, but blessedly funnier than, our own.
How does Ross, who has continued the legacy of TV sitcoms’ greatest stars—Phylicia Rashad, Carol Burnett—deliver such weightless performances week after week? We’ll find out at The New Yorker Festival on October 8.
television,sitcoms,tracee ellis ross,black ish