In an interview with legendary TV producer Norman Lear for Entertainment Weekly, Black-ish creator Kenya Barris revealed that he's left scenes on the cutting room floor that were deemed too shocking for TV by the network bigwigs.
"I’ve been lucky that ABC’s let me tell some really interesting stories,” Barris said, “but I get scared when I get those calls and we have to take things out.”
Barris specifically cited an episode addressing the world kids live in today, which includes a cold open of images that speak to our time, setting up the show's point of view in a typical voice-over from the Johnson family patriarch Dre (Anthony Anderson).
“One of the images I wanted to show was 9/11," he said. "I wanted to show the towers," but he couldn't. He also wanted to include a sign reading "Sandy Hook Elementary," but that was also cut. "I was like, 'Every kid has seen this,'" he said.
But Barris knows when to pick his battles, admitting, “Those things are corporate arbitrary things. They let me tell stories in a way that I appreciate so it’s not a huge argument, but it is a moment of — What?" He's not wrong, kids have come accustom to images like these, which are one search away on the internet. These are also not shocking visuals, but historic documentation of incidents that they should be learning about in school or at home. Keeping kids from knowing history is the first step to them repeating it.
Barris said that while these kinds of notes are disheartening, "I’m always figuring out ways around how to do this, so that makes it hard," he said. "Ultimately, you do have to tell them: ‘I’m going to tell my stories and you can’t.'”
It's hard to argue with a guy whose found a way to thoughtfully take on topics that were once taboo on network TV. What's clear from this interview is that Barris isn't going to let anyone stop him from doing that any time soon.