Kenya Barris is opening up after making headlines on social media recently. During a recent conversation with T.I. for his podcast “Expeditiously”, Kenya addresses being slammed by critics who dislike #BlackAF, his show on Netflix because of it’s light-skinned cast. He also touches on how divorce is affecting him. The show creator filed for divorce last summer after 20 years of marriage.
Kenya wants people to know he hears their critiques about #BlackAF including the fact that Rashida Jones is biracial, but he can explain; his wife is actually biracial so Rashida’s casting makes perfect sense.
Kenya tells Tip:
Kenya: People have called me and told me ‘this is my favorite show’, people have called me and said ‘I hate this.’
T.I.: [Re: Rashida Jones and colorism outrage on social media] What do you think hurt people’s feelings about that?
Kenya: I won’t speak on Rashida but I will say this about her: she’s the only person I ever wanted to do that role. She did it in a way that is perfect. She held me up and carried me through that. I feel like she’s done a pitch-perfect job. This was based on my family. She’s playing a version of my wife who is biracial. My kids look like those kids, who are amazing. If you dug just a little bit under the surface you will find this is biographical.
Although he’s written his wife into several of his scripts, things are about to a wrap for the couple. Kenya opened up about his divorce with wife Dr. Raina “Rainbow” Barris-Edwards. The pair married in 1999. The couple previously filed for divorce in 2014 but reconciled and withdrew the papers in 2015. Now their divorce is back on and he calls the split “the toughest thing I’ve ever been through in my life.”
Kenya: It is part of life. When I was growing up, we didn’t have—I never saw Cliff and Clair argue. If you look at sitcoms and our stories, we’re supposed to be okay. But 52% of marriages don’t work. And the notion of understanding—We didn’t know about therapy or really understand it. We didn’t know about really having the church or other married friends that would have given us the skeleton to make it in another sort of way. So I feel like talking about that to a generation of people who might be going through what I’m going through, it makes them say, ‘Hey, there’s other people out there like me. Maybe we can make it. Maybe we can’t.’ I just want to be as real with my sh*t as possible. It is the toughest thing I’ve ever been through in my life.
T.I.: Especially when you have to go through it in the public.
Kenya: Somehow, some f*cked up way, it got announced on my birthday I didn’t file on my birthday but it got announced on my birthday. I don’t know that people care about me getting divorced. I’m not anybody, especially at that point. And all of a sudden it’s in the papers as I’m getting off the plane coming from Atlanta. I have my wife calling me. I have my daughter who’s a sophomore at USC calling me. I have my daughter, who’s a senior in high school, calling me because her friends are talking about it. I’m just not used to…it’s a different world than I ever expected and I’m trying to experience it with the audience in real time. This is all happening to me as it’s happening on air.
Hit play to hear the full interview.
Have YOU been watching #BlackAF? What is your take on the show so far?