We’re less than a week away from the final episode of ABC’s long-running and influential sitcom black-ish, and while we’ll have to wait to see what the future holds for the Johnson family—led by Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross)—there’s time to look back at the past eight seasons.
Since they’ve literally grown up on the show, stars Marsai Martin (who plays Diane Johnson) and Miles Brown (Diane’s twin brother, Jack) shared their favorite moments recently for TV Guide Magazine’s cover story. From those early days on set to iconic moments like the Juneteenth episode and Prince tribute, Jack and Diane were always in the mix to bring laughs but also provide the younger perspective on the big issues the show explored weekly.
As the series was wrapping up, did you go back and watch those early episodes? What do you think when you see yourself?
Miles Brown: I have often gone back and watched certain episodes. Especially with syndication, random episodes from the past air and my family would watch and tease me about how young I was and how my voice used to sound. Sometimes it would even make them cry because of how much I have grown since then. I am proud of how much my character Jack and I have matured through the 8 years on and off screen.
Marsai Martin: My family and I actually watch the earlier episodes of black-ish every night before bed. With the show being in syndication, it’s really cool to watch the old episodes with my baby sister. She’s 5 and can’t believe we were so little when the show first started, and neither can I! What a wonderful journey it’s been!
Diane had a quick wit and sharp tongue from early in the show. Did she ever surprise you?
Marsai: I was always surprised that Diane got away with the stuff she said to adults! She wasn’t disrespectful, but Diane would still be in time out if she lived in my house!
Jack was the opposite of Diane in a lot of ways, but how has he changed over the years in your eyes?
Miles: Jack has always kept his sense of confidence, cockiness and sureness of himself. But now I see a more mature Jack that wants to show his family even more his full potential. I also notice Jack’s more passionate about growing up and being treated equal to Diane.
black-ish regularly hit on important social issues (police brutality, the election, Juneteenth) and often educated the audience or at least made them think. Was there a particular episode or storyline that impacted you in a big way?
Miles: I think the “Hope,” “Lemons,” and “Dream Home” episodes were important to me, being these touched on politics and realistic sides of marriage. I’m sure a lot of people related to these issues, especially “Hero Pizza,” which reflected the issue of the pandemic we were going through.
Marsai: There were so many! We really got a chance to talk about issues and topics that are normal conversations in Black households and open it up to talk about it out loud in a way that hasn’t really been done. The one with the most impact on me, or that I related to most, was the colorism episode. This is something that impacts most Black families and is usually something only discussed within the Black community but honestly, colorism is a global issue and many ethnicities have a shared experience with colorism within their cultures as well. So people from all over the world, including myself, felt seen.
What were those episodes like when you and the cast would perform on stage, as you did in the Juneteenth episode?
Marsai: The performance episodes were always my favorites because Diane ALWAYS got to do something fabulous, like singing with Tyra Banks, or being James Brown via an Eddie Murphy/SNL rendition of the hot tub song. But the Prince episode and being able to channel Prince in such a dynamic way made the crew both laugh and cry on the day of filming, so I knew I was doing an alright job! Those iconic scenes were both stressful and fun, then when you see the final product, you’re just like, WOW!
Miles: The Juneteenth episode was special because not only were we re-telling a story of how Black people felt when we were told we were free, this [episode] resulted in Apple adding it as a holiday in their calendar, which made us all proud. That episode was also fun to bring the art of dance into the picture, which I’ve always supported as a dancer myself. That was awesome! Shout out to our Peter Saji, who wrote the Juneteenth episode, Anton Cropper, who directed it, and Fatima Robinson and Fonz Bentley, who were our choreographers, and my friends Aloe Blacc and the Roots for joining us for that episode!
What will you miss most about playing Jack and Diane?
Miles: I will miss playing his character. Also I will miss showing Jack’s growth as a teenager. But more importantly, I will miss showing a version of Jack that most families have in their own house and can relate to in their own way.
Marsai: Diane got to do some really cool and adventurous things. She was fearless, except for that time she was afraid of the dark, and I will miss being able to do cool things through her!
black-ish, Series Finale, Tuesday, April 19, 9:30/8:30c, ABC