The Carmichael Show is easily one of the best
black shows on television right now. It stars its namesake and creator, Jerrod Carmichael, as a son, brother and fiance who is not only opinionated but often finds himself in the crossfire of the even stronger opinions of his family.
In the first two seasons, we met the Carmichaels, and we are beyond delighted that besides fresh and young faces like Lil Rel Howery, Tiffany Haddish and Amber Stevens West, the show features the legendary Loretta Devine and David Alan Grier. This cast of characters has fearlessly tackled topics like Donald Trump, racism, feminism, Black Lives Matter and more, all through the extremely nuanced black lens.
The show is making its triumphant third-season return May 31 on NBC, and it promises to maintain the same integrity while setting its sights on other meaty topics, like public shootings, police brutality, aging and death.
And what a time for this show! I like to brag that we’re in a black-TV renaissance right now, but with the recent news that groundbreaking shows like Shots Fired and Underground have been canceled, you have to wonder if the powers that be will keep allowing black TV to thrive. If any show deserves staying power, The Carmichael Show does.
The Root sat down with the talented cast of the show during a set visit while they were filming season 3. Not only did we get to see where the magic happens, but we also got a chance to have candid conversations with the cast. Here’s what they have to say about the next season and the responsibility they share to portray a black family unit on TV.
The Root: I’m a real fan of the show because as a black person, I understand the multiple perspectives, and you cover the topics black people talk about all the time. Was blackness always your focus?
Jerrod Carmichael: I think the blackness is inherent in the characters. Growing up around all these really rich people, in [terms of] character—opposite of finances—these people are really passionate about things. I’ve seen people cry over losing a cigarette—just real emotional. That is inherent in the characters, so with subjects or anything we talk about, I just approach it from an observing curiosity.
I like to challenge in scripts. Those are the conversations ... in the black community that you don’t get to see in television. You see one dimension of us, but I like to show that it’s a full range of disagreeing perspectives. You can’t just guess a black perspective. It can come from anywhere. People’s lives are informed by different things, and I want to make sure that we’re telling the full story.
David Alan Grier: I feel good because it’s an authentic picture of the black life I know I live. When I go home to my family and we sit around the kitchen table, this is it. I do like that we talk about what’s really going on in the world.
Loretta Devine: We love our writers. They really come up with some incredible jokes, issues, and Jerrod has his hand in everything, from how we look, talk and think, how we deal with things. He’s very easy to work with. He works so hard. He really let us put input into it, and we get a chance to fuss back and forth on some things.
Lil Rel Howery: Jerrod writes very well in our voice. I get that’s why he’s up all night writing. I want to watch him to see if he does our voices to himself. That goes for casting, too. He knew who would fit into what.
TR: OK, so Loretta Devine and David Alan Grier are just casually playing your parents on the show. What’s it like working with these legends, calling them Mom and Dad?
JC: amazing! I’m in awe and genuinely in love with them!
Amber Steven West: There’s not a day that goes by that I’m [not] like, OMG! I’m working with them! We’re all very close now.
Tiffany Haddish: [Sings.] Dreams come true! Dreams come true! [Laughs.]
LRH: It’s surreal working with them. Loretta Devine is a legend and amazing. She’s got great energy. The way they praise Sally Field, they should do Loretta Devine the same way. David is amazing. These are two legit legends.
TH: Loretta is the best teacher. I’ve learned more from her by this third season than I’ve learned in acting class: how to memorize things, how to operate in this whole system, how to crochet faster! [Laughs.] All kind of little tricks she’s taught me. I grew up in the system, and I remember wishing she was my mom.
I remember David coming to the comedy camp when I was a kid, and I would say he’s going to be my friend. I’m going to work with him one day! Boom, here we are working together. I feel like I’m a unicorn, [a] magical creature creating all my dreams, manifesting everything. Every day I come to work, I’m so happy.
TR: And what about you legends—how does it feel working with these youngsters?
DAG: I feel like a musician. I’m a big fan of jazz; you hear the story over and over: These giants of a certain era scorn new musicians. The only artists who survived were the ones to work with young artists, gave them their knowledge, and in turn they give us energy. I feel like my longevity rests in the hands of young artists, young comics. I love working with them because they give me energy back. It keeps you current, or else I’d be at home with a Betamax.
The cast of The Carmichael Show loved us so much, they stopped by The Root Live, too:
Watch The Carmichael Show Wednesdays on NBC, starting May 31, at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.