Anthony Anderson Says Growing Up Black Gave Him His Sense of Humor: 'You Have To Laugh To Keep From Crying'

The Emmy-nominated actor and black-ish star talked about growing up Black, fatherhood, and why he wants Black communities to talk about health with family after losing his father to diabetes.

Now that black-ish has ended, Anthony Anderson is reprising his role as Detective Kevin Barnard into the recently renewed season 22 of Law and Order. Anderson owns his serious role and is effortlessly convincing as the detective, but he still holds a place as one of TV's funniest fathers.

In an interview with Kindred by, the Emmy-nominated actor and star of the recently ended hit family sitcom black-ish talked about growing up Black, fatherhood, and what he left to his now adult children.

He's well known as Dre—a Black family man trying to raise self-aware Black children in an upper-class, predominantly white neighborhood with his biracial wife—from NBC's hit sitcom black-ish created by Kenya Barris. But, Anderson is not far removed from his character's social situations and often serious dilemmas.

"Dre was based on my real life as well as Kenya's, so what you saw on that screen for the past eight years were the things that we were dealing with in our families, as husbands as fathers, as sons as brothers," he told Kindred by "Those were stories that are picked from our lives that we decided to share with the world."

And as a father to two, a 26-year-old daughter and a 22-year-old son, he's got lots of stories. In the same way he took those stories and put them into his work, he hopes his children took the values he left to them into their own work.

"I hoped my legacy to them would be hard work, perseverance, and all of that work ethic I instilled in them," he said. There's no question the independence he encouraged in them took root. In fact, it worked too well.

"I sit and debate with them now, and I'm like, 'Damn, why did I raise you like this?'" he joked. "Why can't you just take what I say and just do it?" After all, that's how he was raised. Acknowledging that many raised in Black families didn't have the opportunity to ask those "why" questions, he said there's a difference between questioning and asking questions. The bottom line for him is that he raised his children "to be their own individuals and to always speak their mind."

He's also got lots of solid parenting advice. Namely, "Be patient," he said. "It's just about patience and allowing them to make their mistakes. We can't stand up for them and try to help navigate them. There's certain mistakes that they don't need to make because they've already been made by the parent, but each mistake is a learning lesson. We have to allow them to make them and learn from them, and it takes patience and understanding and a discipline to stay hands-off."

Another family lesson important to him is talking about health and health history. Anderson has type 2 diabetes and also lost his father to complications from diabetes. "I was the first person diagnosed with diabetes in my family. Then, my mom was diagnosed. And then we found out my father had probably been living with diabetes for over 20 years," he said. Once his father was finally diagnosed, his quality of life and health had already suffered greatly. "That's why it's important for me to really get out and give my testimony and share my story to help educate people—help educate the community about it."

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Black Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to die from diabetes and 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with it. That's why he's partnered with Norvo Nordisk's Get Real About Diabetes campaign to change the narrative and get communities informed. Being open about our health with family members, encouraging them to go to the doctor, and sharing reputable information are a few ways Anderson says we can contribute to reversing this disparity.

Growing up hearing so little discussion about his immediate family members' health and health care is what prompted Anderson to campaign to end the silence around diabetes diagnosis and care. Growing up Black is what keeps him funny.

"It made me the man that I am today. It's given me my sense of humor, and it's given me my sensibilities," he said. "Sometimes, being Black in America, you have to laugh to keep from crying. It's formed who I am today, and the things that I do—and I wouldn't change it for the world."

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