For years, we witnessed Tracee Ellis Ross become the neurotic, and hilarious, Joan Clayton who was always searching for her passion—and her man—in the entertaining sitcom Girlfriends. Now, the actress-turned-producer is back on the small screen as Joan Clayton’s dream woman: Wife and mother.
Ross’ new show, Reed Between the Lines, is billed as a 21st century Cosby Show, but is it? As many question whether or not it can live up to the hype, Ross is confident and proud in her show’s ability to fill a void and depict a positive black family living and loving on their own terms.
Recently, Vibe Vixen sat down with Ross to discuss the audience’s reaction to Reed Between the Lines, her personal style, and the advice she’d give her girlfriends who, like Joan, are still single and seeking.
VIBE Vixen: I spoke with you before Reed Between the Lines premiered and you were excited about people seeing it. Now that people have seen it, what do you think about the audience’s reaction?
Tracee Ellis Ross: I don’t know all of the viewers’ reactions. The only access I have is through Twitter, but I feel really proud of what we’ve done. I think it always takes some time to find a new show. For example, The Game existed before it went to BET, so it had a built-in audience. And part of why BET created this show was because it was something that its audience seemed to want and had been asking for—a family show. But it’s still very different from what’s been on BET, and it takes people a minute either to find it or for their palate to get used to it because it’s not typically found on BET.
The people that I have been in contact with, that I’ve run into on the street and on Twitter, seem to really enjoy it. They seem to be grateful that we have something on television that they can be proud of, and it feels like a show that represents a part of our audience that wasn’t being represented. And people really seem to like my clothes [Laughs].
VV: Well, we’ll get to that later.
Ross: But for me, I remember when Girlfriends started and how it took some time for us to find each other’s characters and to gel with the writers. It takes time.
VV: Do you think The Cosby Show comparisons set the audience expectations too high?
Ross: I don’t know. For some people, it’s a great context to know what the show might be and, for [others], it makes it hard because you’re comparing it to something that you have such a clear idea of. BET seems to be promoting it as the new Cosby which I don’t think it helpful, and I don’t think makes sense.
The way Malcolm [Jamal Warner] and I have been describing it is that we are in no way, shape or form, trying to be a new Cosby Show. What we are doing is taking the recipe of what Cosby did–a family show that was timeless and good–and use those elements.
I can’t get invested in whether it hurts the show or not. On other networks, they do two episodes and they pull a show from television. Sometimes that’s the greatest thing and sometimes it just never had a chance to grow. With BET, we did 25 episodes and we’re getting a chance. It’s really wonderful working with a network that wants your show and is behind your show. The audience asked for this kind of show, BET listened and they went out and have gotten behind our show. On other networks, I don’t know if that always happens.