Black-ish actor Anthony Anderson with his two children Nathan Anderson, 15, and Kyla Anderson, 19. (Photo: Anthony Anderson)
On the ABC hit television show Black-ish, Anthony Anderson plays Andre “Dre” Johnson, a husband and father-of-four who worries that his success as an advertising executive is skewing his children’s cultural identities. In real life, Anderson and his wife of 15 years work hard to keep their two children, ages 15 and 19, grounded. In an exclusive interview, the comedian and former Transformers star tells Yahoo Parenting how he raises hardworking children – one of whom has his own Hollywood dreams (but didn’t get a role on dad’s show).
You didn’t grow up privileged and now you’re on a hit television show. How did your childhood shape how you parent?
I grew up in Compton, Los Angles so [when I became an actor] I overcompensated because of my background…I wanted to give [my children] everything I didn’t have. But I can’t spoil my kids. I had to say, ‘Wait a minute — am I creating a monster? I can’t keep freely giving you things.’ My kids have schoolwork, community service, and chores. We recently put together packages at the post office for soldiers overseas.
Anderson with his TV sons, Andre Jr. (Marcus Scribner, far left) and Miles (Jack Johnson, center). (Photo: Michael Ansell/ABC via Getty Images)
Your teenage son is an actor — do you have any concerns about him in Hollywood?
My son has a part on the television series Richie Rich — he actually auditioned for Black-ish when he was 14 but he didn’t get the role because he’s too cool to play an awkward kid. When he was 8, he told me he wanted to act and I support him. I explained to him that he won’t get every job [he auditions for] and to be prepared for rejection. He has to work hard, whether it’s on a job, the basketball court, or at school. My daughter is a freshman at the University of San Diego and wants her PhD so she can run non-profits and save the world. But in her early teens, she was a spoiled brat — we were staying in a hotel once and she was complaining that there was no room service. I told her, ‘This is what you were born into. These gifts are because of my hard work.’
How is raising a son different than raising a daughter?
We teach our sons to go out and conquer and we teach our daughters not to be conquered. There’s a dichotomy there, but it boils down to this: Your first kid is a guinea pig but for the next kid, you realize that maybe you were too harsh on the first. My daughter says she couldn’t have a cell phone at age 16 when her brother had one at 14. We tell her, ‘Times have changed,’ but she doesn’t want to hear that.
You’re the creative advisor for a new Swiffer documentary that dispels stereotypes that men don’t cook and clean. How do you help out at home?
I do all the cooking and make whatever my kids want to eat. If my son wants fillet and my daughter wants an omelet, I’ll make it. My wife does cook, but I’m better. After this season of Black-ish ends, I’m going to culinary school.
In the past you’ve been outspoken about your mom, who sounds hilarious. What’s the worst way she embarrassed you growing up?
She used Vagisil to treat our cuts and bruises. And she’d say in front of my friends, ‘If it’s good enough [for me], it’s good enough for your jock.’