Remember when there was controversy in 2018 after ABC pulled an episode of hit comedy series Black-ish? Creator Kenya Barris (who also created Mixed-ish and Grown-ish) spoke out about being censored before parting with ABC Studios. He then signed an overall deal with Netflix worth $100 million. Now, the new series blackAF, Barris’s first collaboration with Netflix, has finally been released on the streaming platform. Ten minutes into the first episode and it is clear Barris is taking full advantage of the writing liberties he now has away from limitations of network television. It's also clear he's got lots of friends in high places: the blackAF cast is stacked with celebrity cameos.
Barris chooses show titles that leave no room for ambiguity about what the series will focus on. While Black-ish depicts Anthony Anderson’s character establishing a sense of ethnic and cultural identity within his family, the members of the Barris family on blackAF know who they are and they own it. In blackAF, Barris plays a version of himself. Like the real Barris, the character is a wealthy television writer and producer who is married to a biracial woman and has six children. Each episode (with titles that mention a running joke about slavery) provides and inside look at the life of the unfiltered family using direct-to-camera, documentary-style interviews conducted by second eldest daughter Drea (Iman Benson).
This series marks Barris’s debut as a leading actor, so he has surrounded himself with multiple, well-respected comedic actors. One of them is writer, producer, and actress Rashida Jones who plays his wife Joya. The other stars who appear make up the impressive list of cameos squeezed into #blackAF’s eight-episode first season. Some play themselves while others take on the roles of funny, fictionalised characters.