Comedian and Actor David Alan Grier Is Not Raising an Entitled Teen

The Tony Award-winning actor, recently in Clifford the Big Red Dog, has been on screens for decades. Behind the scenes, he’s raising his daughter to be humble and aware of socioeconomic differences.

With a career that has spanned more than 40 years in theater, film, television and comedy, David Alan Grier understands the power of remaining authentic, humble, and true to one's self in his career and in real life. Grier recently graced the screen as Mr. Packard in the first live-action adaptation of the classic book series Clifford the Big Red Dog.

The movie takes place in New York City and the movie's main protagonist Emily (Darby Camp) lives in a culturally-rich, diverse community in Harlem. Grier recently spoke with about parenting in a way that encourages kids to be proud of where they come from, real about who they are, and accepting of the socioeconomic differences that the movie highlights. Of course, this meant that Grier's tween daughter and his own experiences in Harlem were top of mind.

In the movie, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Mr. Packard is the building maintenance worker for Harlem Apartments, the rent-stabilized building that Emily lives in with her single mom, Maggie (Sienna Guillory). Though Emily lives in Harlem, she attends an elite, independent school on the Upper East Side, where the popular students call her "food stamp" because she receives a financial aid scholarship.

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Emily grapples with this and her identity. She even tells her mom that she may need therapy for the rest of her life as a result of attending school with stuffy, privileged kids who lack compassion and empathy. The only classmate that doesn't fit this bill is Owen, a gregarious, empathetic and wealthy middle-schooler who becomes Emily's best friend. He lives in a 27 million dollar home, but stays humble and consistently shows up for Emily on her journey to save Clifford.

Parenting is a unique experience for each individual household, and Emily's mom tries her best as a hard-working professional to make sure that Emily is well taken care of. Still, Maggie does not quite understand the pressures that Emily faces while attending school in such an elitist environment.

Davis Alen Grier
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Grier understands that it's important to discuss the reality that household incomes vary with children, emphasizing that no experience is of greater value than the next. When asked how he encourages his daughter to respect and value the experiences of others and the differences in how people live, Grier candidly shared that it's important for him as a parent to make situations and conversations "real."

Grier asserts that he makes sure that his tween daughter knows that it's not "her" money that she reaps the harvest of. When she exudes any form of entitlement or privilege, open conversations about socioeconomic realities are the cornerstone for maintaining humility. "I think that the foundation has to be one of respect and of honoring one another," he says.

On the other hand, Grier says it's important to be mindful of the fears and insecurities that adults unknowingly project onto children. His nephews go to a private school, but it's not them who are uncomfortable with the environment. Grier says it's his brother who is often uneasy about the privileges his kids have. Though it wasn't his own personal experience, he says, "I've heard so many people say of themselves, 'I grew up poor but never realized it until I got older and looked at the definition of what poor is."

Though working-class and middle-income students like Emily may be conditioned to feel as if they do not fit into the rich communities where they attend school , it's important for parents to teach their children about the history, culture and legacy of their own communities. As a result kids will learn the value of their own experiences and place less emphasis on money. .

In Clifford the Big Red Dog, Emily was looked down upon by some of her school peers because of where she lives, but her neighborhood's rich sense of community ultimately helps her to rescue Clifford. It is her community that helps her to realize how amazing she truly is.

Though Grier grew up in Detroit, Harlem and New York City have played a major part in his professional and personal life. For him, it was always a rich epicenter full of Black life and culture.

"I remember taking the New Haven train from down when I was going to grad school in New Haven, Connecticut, at Yale University," he says. "And I remember this day when we came into the 125th Street station, and I looked out. I had never seen that many Black people. It was like God took all these buildings and turned them upside down and just shook them."

Clifford the Big Red Dog premiered nationwide in theaters and on Paramount+ on November 10. Joe Pickett, Grier's most recent project is now available exclusively on Spectrum.

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