There’s something a bit surreal about sitting in a dressing room at 30 Rock, watching Anthony Anderson getting misted down by a spray bottle while wearing an eye mask before taping an interview on Late Night With Seth Meyers. Men mask, and are proud of it, if Anderson is any indication.
Anderson, in person, is ebullient and outgoing. He’s a hugger. And he has the complexion of a man half his age, something that Meyers too points out during a pre-interview confab. “I knew you had a secret. You’ve looked the same age the entire time I’ve known you,” Meyers says to a laughing Anderson.
He’s now in the Netflix film Beats, playing a manager who collaborates with a musical prodigy dealing with agoraphobia. But you likely know Anderson best as the paterfamilias on ABC’s black-ish, playing a brash and emotive dad caught between his well-heeled glossy life and the need to still identify with his roots. That’s not too far from Anderson himself. And it’s certainly aligned with how the actor, 48, raised his own children, Nathan, 19, and Kyra, 23. “You have to be a normal individual to raise normal kids,” he says.
Anderson talked to Fatherly about flying first-class, dealing with privilege, and how he he looks so damn young.
You play a dad on TV and you’re a dad in real life. What’s the coolest part of parenthood for you personally?
Watching my children grow into the young adults I’d hoped that they would become. And they are. And getting to hang with them. Up to then, you’re just nurturing them. For all my fuck-ups, they came out all right. They’re cool to hang with. That’s the cool part of being a dad, hanging with my adult children. My son goes to my alma mater, Howard University.
Does anything from the Anderson household permeate your show? Meaning, did you lift any plots from your own experiences?
My son was 12 years old and wanted to have a bar mitzvah. I had to tell him that’s not who we are, that’s not our culture. So I threw him a bro-mitzvah. That was on the show.
You’re rich. You’re famous. You have perfect skin. How the hell do you raise kids who are not nasty, spoiled little brats?
My wife is the normal one of the two of us. You keep them grounded. We made sure they volunteered, that they did work in the community. Yeah, we do live a life of privilege somewhat, but that came with hard work. They know it doesn’t come easy. We work with the homeless. My daughter is getting her masters in social work and ethnic studies. She wants to write policy and change policy. My son is a young actor. They understand humility.
But how? What’s the actual secret, if there is one?
My mother cracks the whip and my wife does as well. They understand this is fantasy. We are part of the privileged percentage. The real world doesn’t live like this. They get it.
My son doesn’t get it yet. He thinks there are VIP lines for everything, and I worry that he’s going to grow up expecting that.
My daughter used to be like that when she was younger. The first time we flew together as a family and we were footing the bill, we didn’t turn left on the plane. That’s first class. We turned right. My daughter noticed that. She was not happy.
In another instance, my mother invited all her grandkids to spend the night at the hotel. My daughter went. She came home the next day and told us that the hotel didn’t have room service. My mother was like, “Damn right. She wanted something to eat? Go make yourself a sandwich.” My daughter was fancy. She would order surf and turf at 6 years old.
Are you and Dre one and the same? How much of you is in the character?
It doesn’t differ much. Dre is dramatic in how he deals with situations and his children and so am I. It’s been a happy medium between this character and myself. That’s what it is. We have our challenges. Our show is something new, something fresh yet familiar. A show like ours, with a cast that looked like ours, hadn’t been on television in a while.
And now to the most important issue at hand here. You have the skin of a baby. Seriously, no wrinkles. So smooth, so soft. Please, share you secrets. We must know.
I’m getting beautified. These eye masks really work. They bring down the puffiness under your eyes. But you know, black don’t crack. It chips a little bit, that’s all. You have some fucked-up skin. Live with it. Wait, I’m only kidding! I drink lots of water. I don’t get any sleep at all. I try to drink a gallon of water a day. That’s what keeps my skin boyishly fresh.