Actor Anthony Anderson

The actor-comedian talks about his role in NBC’s freshman sitcom, Guys with Kids.

Funnyman Anthony Anderson wasn't sure Hollywood was ready for him; but he used his versatility to his advantage. He's appeared in more than 20 features and has an impressive body of small screen work, including NBC's Law & Order, earning four NAACP Image Award nominations, and the semi-autobiographical sitcom, All About the Andersons that he created and produced. He's currently balancing roles in both HBO's Treme and the NBC freshman comedy, Guys with Kids. Anderson grew up in Los Angeles and attended the High School for the Performing Arts, where he won an NAACP ACTSO Award and an arts scholarship to Howard University.

TRANSCRIPT

Tavis: Here we go. Anthony Anderson is a talented comedian and actor whose credits include shows like “Law & Order” and “Treme,” movies like “The Departed,” “Transformers,” and “Barber Shop.”

He now stars on the NBC comedy “Guys with Kids.” The show airs Wednesday nights at 8:30. Here now, a scene from “Guys with Kids.”

[Clip]

Tavis: I was saying to you during that clip it’s amazing how time flies. Tempestt is somebody’s mama now.

Anthony Anderson: Yeah. Not only is she somebody’s mama, she’s my baby’s mama. (Laughter)

Tavis: Yeah.

Anderson: Four times.

Tavis: Four times, you have four kids on this show.

Anderson: Yeah, yeah.

Tavis: Literally, it goes just, it goes so fast, man.

Anderson: It does, man.

Tavis: One day she’s a kid on “The Cosby Show” and the next time she’s playing your wife with four babies.

Anderson: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Tavis: I was saying to Stephanie, our producer, before I came out here to talk to you, you are the, like, workingest Negro that I know. (Laughter) I’m serious. Of all the friends I have in this business, you are always working.

Anderson: Thank you, thank you.

Tavis: Obviously it’s a blessing, but what do you make of the fact that you go – obviously your talent has something to do with it.

But you’ve bounced between comedy, you’ve bounced between drama, but what – I don’t know, the gods must like you or the folk who run Hollywood like you.

Anderson: Yeah.

Tavis: Because you are always on some movie or TV project.

Anderson: Well, I think it’s a combination of both, the gods and Hollywood enjoy my talent. Ever since I was 9 years old I realized that this was, my talent was a gift that’s been bestowed upon me, and it’s my duty and my job to share this gift that I’ve been blessed with with as many people as I possibly can. I think that’s what my success is all about.

Tavis: Did you see – well, obviously if anybody saw it, you saw it – did you see the drama thing coming, or was it always – when I first met you, I ain’t going to lie, I didn’t see it. You’re funny as all get-out, but I didn’t see the drama thing coming.

Anderson: That was the problem that I felt I was going to be facing later in my career, being typecast as the fat, funny guy, the jovial guy, the comic relief. But this is something that I’ve trained at since I was nine years old, growing up in Compton, going to -

Tavis: That’ll teach you drama.

Anderson: Yeah, exactly.

Tavis: And comedy. (Laughter)

Anderson: Yeah, yeah, growing – the comedy got me out of a lot of situations.

Tavis: I’m sure, I’m sure.

Anderson: Going to the High School for the Performing Arts and then getting the talent scholarship to Howard University, this is all I ever wanted to do since I was nine. A lot of people ask me how is it staying focused and serious when I’m doing these dramatic roles.

I was like, well, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was getting the opportunity to portray these characters and get these roles.

Tavis: Right.

Anderson: So I always saw it, and it was a calculated plan that me and my team set in motion.

Tavis: Yeah.

Anderson: Yeah.

Tavis: So you having fun with this one?

Anderson: I am, man.

Tavis: Yeah.

Anderson: It’s good to be back in the sitcom world, because I had a little departure, because I did have something to prove on the dramatic side, just because people like yourself, who sit back home – we met years ago, didn’t see it.

Because Hollywood can be myopic in their thinking sometimes; when you do something well, that’s all they see you as. So yeah, I did drama for the last five or six years and now it’s finally come full circle and I’m back to playing that half-hour world.

Tavis: Yeah. How are you making decisions about what to do or not do based upon where you want to take your career?

Anderson: Now it’s just about finding the right project that will showcase my talent. I never – I always made it a point never to work for money, never to work to pay a bill or anything like that, and that way I’ll never be trapped. So it’s just if the character speaks to me, like the character Antwon Mitchell on “The Shield.”

That was the first time that people really got to see me as a villain, and to play opposite Glenn Close and Michael Chiklis for a year, and then to play opposite Forest Whitaker and Michael Chiklis the next year, that’s what I look for. Those are the things that I look for, things that move me and satisfy my creative appetite.

Tavis: I read somewhere the other day that “Treme” is in its last season; this is going to be it for “Treme.” But you’re on that project as well, as I mentioned. How’d that happen for you, the “Treme” piece?

Anderson: Wendell Pierce is a good friend of mine.

Tavis: Right, I love Wendell.

Anderson: Yeah, and what Wendell did, outside of “Treme,” what Wendell did as an actor, he put on “Waiting for Godot” after Katrina, and he put it up in the Ninth Ward where the levee broke in another part of town, and so they incorporated that into “Treme.”

Wendell gave me a call and said, “Ant, they’re incorporating what I did this summer, or the summer of Katrina, into the show. I want you to play me.” So that’s how it happened, and it went from one episode to five or six that I did this past season.

It’s unfortunate that this is their last season. They wanted one more to tie everything up, and it’s unfortunate that they’re not getting it.

Tavis: That’s a great story about Wendell, and knowing Wendell as I do, that does not surprise me he would call somebody and give them the hook-up.

Is that an atypical story of the way brothers and sisters in this business work, or is that something that you could attest to that happens more times, more often than we think, or no?

Anderson: Well, you – it’s not an atypical story. Actually, no, I take that back, it is an atypical story. I try to do that as often as I can, but I don’t hear about it as often as we should in this industry.

The whole crabs in a barrel syndrome. I want mine. Well, my whole philosophy is you can’t take from me – or I can’t take from you what’s due to you, just like you can’t take from me what’s due to me.

Tavis: Right.

Anderson: So I try to share the wealth as much as I possibly can, because I can’t get every job. Every job isn’t meant for me to have. So it’s like look, if I know of something that’s going on, I’m like hey, Tavis, they got this going on, why don’t you come down and see what you can do?

Tavis: You can stop lying. You ain’t never called me.

Anderson: You’re too busy.

Tavis: (Unintelligible)

Anderson: You got, you got, you got radio -

Tavis: You’re just lying. (Laughter)

Anderson: You got radio, you got, you own PBS -

Tavis: You ain’t never called me. Whatever, you ain’t called me (unintelligible).

Anderson: You know, I’m just saying. (Laughter) You own almost 16 blocks in Southern California off of Crenshaw and Slauson.

Tavis: Yeah, now you’re back into the comedy. (Laughter)

Anderson: I’m just saying. I’m just saying. My friend actually lives in your building now.

Tavis: What?

Anderson: Felicia Levitt -

Tavis: Don’t say it, don’t say (unintelligible).

Anderson: I’m going to say her name. (Laughter) She does my wife hair. She’s going to get – I just gave her a plug. She’s like, “Okay, I’m gonna (unintelligible) this time for free.”

Tavis: Yeah, I hope she’s paying her rent on time.

Anderson: She just moved in, so I think she good.

Tavis: Okay. I hope she’s caught up on her rent. (Laughter)

Anderson: I think she’s good, I think she’s good. (Laughter)

Tavis: That’s funny, that is funny. Tell me about the character. I know about this. For those who haven’t seen the show, tell me about the character you play on the TV sitcom.

Anderson: Gary. Gary.

Tavis: Four babies.

Anderson: Four babies, a set of twins that are nine months old, an eight-year-old and a seven-year-old, all boys. I’m a stay-at-home dad by choice, so it’s not like I’m lazy and shiftless.

Tavis: Right. (Laughter) By choice.

Anderson: By choice. I have to put that out there.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah.

Anderson: So I empower my wife, played by the lovely Tempestt Bledsoe, to go out and pursue her career, because being a stay-at-home parent is a thankless job. When women do it, no one thanks them or gives them the credit that they deserve, and when men do it, they’re looked at as lazy and shiftless.

But statistics show today that there are more fathers in Mommy and Me classes than mothers. It also shows that there are more men staying at home, taking the task of raising their children on their own.

I tip my hat to every stay-at-home parent who does that, because my wife is a homemaker, I know what she goes through. I know the work that she puts in in raising our children, so I have to tip my hat to them, and that’s what this show is about.

The show’s about guys with kids, holding onto their masculinity, holding onto their relationships with their wives and their girlfriends and ex-wives, and raising children in a responsible yet fun way.

Tavis: This is just a guy you play on television, because you could never do this, could you?

Anderson: No. (Laughter) No. I could eat off the floor.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah. (Laughter)

Anderson: But raising four boys? No, man. No, no. Twins at that? Mm-mmm.

Tavis: Yeah.

Anderson: No.

Tavis: I wonder how you go about researching that project?

Anderson: Which one, eating off the floor -

Tavis: No, no – (laughter)

Anderson: – or raising the kids?

Tavis: Raising the kids. (Laughter) But I think I read somewhere though, of the guys on the show you’re the only one who actually is a father? Did I get (unintelligible)?

Anderson: Yeah, I’m the only father on the show.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah.

Anderson: Yeah, so I had to teach them -

Tavis: So you’ve got some stuff to draw upon.

Anderson: Yeah, I do, I do. I had to teach them how to hold babies. Zach Cregger, he would hold the baby by the back of the neck. I was like, “You can’t hold a baby like that. You can’t do that.” (Laughter) “You can’t do it. His mama and daddy over there watching how you hold the baby. You can’t do that.”

Tavis: Yeah. (Laughter)

Anderson: Then they want to swing the babies by they arms. They joints ain’t secure enough.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah. (Laughter)

Anderson: They’ll just come out the socket sometimes.

Tavis: Somebody told me on this show one time, I don’t know if it was, I’m trying to think if it was Steven Spielberg, Stephen Bochco, one of them -

Anderson: Oh, wait – you’re dropping names.

Tavis: No, no, no -

Anderson: Big names too – Bochco and Spielberg.

Tavis: One of those guys told me on the show one time that if you can avoid it, don’t work with animals and don’t work with kids.

Anderson: So true.

Tavis: Yeah.

Anderson: So true.

Tavis: So I was about to ask, how are you finding it working with these kids on the set?

Anderson: Well, I had this conversation with Martin Scorsese, who said that – (laughter)

Tavis: Oh, oh, oh -

Anderson: Just have to drop my names, you know.

Tavis: You dropped (unintelligible).

Anderson: Pick it up. (Laughter) No, no, truer words have never been spoken, especially with babies, man. We have baby divas, because they want what they want when they want it, and when they don’t get their way, all hell breaks loose.

Sometimes we just have to follow the lead of the infants, man, because if they’re not suckling on something, they lose their minds. First off, they don’t know why they’re there, and they’re like, “Uh, you’re not my daddy or my mama, so why are you holding me?” (Laughter)

But there’s this one baby on the show, his name is Christian, we call him Baby Christian, I think he’s on a baby narcotic.

Tavis: Yeah. (Laughter)

Anderson: I do. I do. Because at any given moment, Baby Christian will just (laughter) pass out on you, become dead weight.

Tavis: Yeah.

Anderson: But gives the best facial expressions. He’s so expressive. I think he’s 19. Not months, but years old, and he still doesn’t speak. There’s three of them. He’s a set of triplets. But Baby Christian is the one, I think he – I’m not going to say they rolling something up, but he tapping something in the back.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah. Now, see, I was thinking I could make that same joke about you, because you have lost so much weight.

Anderson: Well, I am back on that stuff.

Tavis: Are you on that stuff again?

Anderson: I’m back on that stuff, Tavis, thank you for, for bringing it back up.

Tavis: (Laughter) (Unintelligible)

Anderson: “You look (unintelligible) go back to Malibu (unintelligible).” (Laughter) I got my – is this going to be over? I got to check in in 45 minutes.

Tavis: All jokes aside, you look great.

Anderson: Thank you, brother.

Tavis: You look amazing.

Anderson: Thank you, man.

Tavis: You’re doing great work.

Anderson: Appreciate that.

Tavis: The show is called “Guys with Kids,” starring Anthony Anderson and -

Anderson: The slim version of Anthony Anderson.

Tavis: I like you big or small.

Anderson: Yeah, thank you.

Tavis: You getting down either way.

Anderson: Yeah.

Tavis: Good to see you.

“Announcer:” For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at PBS.org.

“Wade Hunt:” There’s a saying that Dr. King had, and he said, “There’s always a right time to do the right thing.” I just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. We know that we’re only about halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. And Walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the U.S. As we work together, we can stamp hunger out.

“Announcer:” And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

  • Bo Garrison

    good interview…. too short, lol. It was just getting good.

Last modified: November 29, 2012 at 2:33 am