One week ago today, Tuesday April 19, the hit ABC sitcom Black-ish said goodbye after eight seasons on the air. Since the show finished filming last November Black-ish star Anthony Anderson, who played Dre, has reprised his role as Kevin Bernard on the original Law & Order.
But playing Bernard on Law & Order is only one thing that Anderson is excited to do in his post Black-ish life. As he explained to me when we spoke via Zoom last week he also has a reality show with his mom coming up. And, he is very much looking forward to his time outdoors, including playing golf. For Anderson, who like seemingly everybody these days, suffers from severe allergies that means traveling with ZYRTEC.
Anderson, who is a major outdoor enthusiast, has teamed with the allergy medicine on a new philanthropic relationship for ReLeaf, designed to plant trees in what he calls, “historically excluded communities.” The relationship with ZYRTEC is what initiated the interview, but we discussed much more, including what it is like to beat Michael Jordan at two games, where his love for golf comes from and the acting comments he received from friend Samuel L. Jackson.
Steve Baltin: When you spend that much time with a character you become attached. How much of that character do you now take with you going forward?
Anthony Anderson: Well, fortunately or maybe unfortunately, I don’t know, I live with this character every day [chuckle]. Because Dre is me and I am Dre, so I brought a lot of me. Oh, I shouldn’t say a lot of me, all of me to this character, so yeah, I lived with him before you lived with him, and I’m gonna live with him long after this show is done.
Baltin: So watching Dre for eight years are there things you learned about yourself that you didn’t notice until you saw yourself do them on TV?
Anderson: No, not from my perspective, but it’s interesting that you say that because Sam Jackson and I are very good friends. And Sam and I were talking about not only Dre, but also my character, Kevin Bernard on Law & Order. And he was like, “Yeah, man, do you notice that you always keep your mouth open as Kevin Bernard, but you don’t keep your mouth open as Andre Johnson when you’re just sitting there talking to somebody you arrested?” I was like, “I never knew that Sam.” [laughter] But goes to show you how people are watching you and they see the little idiosyncrasies that you may have. But I noticed that, and then I would go back and watch Law & Order from 12 years ago when I was on the show, and I was like, “Oh s**t, that’s what Sam was talking about.” And then I looked at myself as Andre Johnson, I was like “Ooh.” I guess this little idiosyncratic things were specific to these characters that I was doing that I wasn’t even conscious of.
Baltin: That’s interesting then, because obviously you bring you to both these characters, but you see Kevin Bernard and Dre as different people.
Anderson: Yeah, and they are. And hopefully, as someone who’s watching me do both of these characters, there is some difference between the two of them, distinguishable differences. Sometimes I play with, “Alright, well, this character’s gonna be left handed and this character isn’t gonna like coffee, he’s gonna like this.” And so it’s just little things that I do for myself that no one else would probably ever know, but it’s just me, building this character and his background and his back story.
Baltin: So why does Kevin keep his mouth open and Dre doesn’t?
Anderson: Interesting question, I don’t know. Maybe because Kevin Bernard is ready to give a tongue-lashing or it’s like, “Hey, you’re lying, I know this.” Maybe he’s anticipating something, I don’t know. And I don’t know why Dre doesn’t, always kept his mouth closed, because he always kept his mouth open, ’cause he was running it so much. [laughter] I don’t know, that’s interesting, I’m gonna have to think about that.
Baltin: The last time we talked, it was at a legacy event celebrating Prince’s charity work, it was 2019, I believe it was. So now for the first time in three years, we have an outdoor concert season, we have the Greek Theater, we have the Hollywood Bowl, all these places where you can go and enjoy music outdoors. What are you looking forward to?
Anderson: Looking forward to all of that, looking forward to being outside again, looking forward to sharing these types of experiences in an open air space, but more importantly, looking forward to being around people and places and trees and not having to worry about allergies. Thus the partnership with ZYRTEC today.
Baltin: I did an interview like this with Brooklyn Decker a year ago, maybe two years ago. And we discussed allergies have gotten so much worse for everybody.
Anderson: They have. How I found out I had allergies was I was on the golf course in Albuquerque, New Mexico, working on the project, but I just happened to have the day off. So I was playing and all of a sudden out of nowhere, I started getting congested, I felt like my throat was closing up. But I stayed out there and I played, and I had production call a doctor to come see me, and the first words out of the doctor’s mouth were, “Do you have allergies?” And I was like, No, I don’t.” He was like, “Well, you do now.” [laughter] And I was like, “Doc, how is that possible? Does that happen that way?” And he was like, “Yeah, you can go to sleep one day and wake up the next day and have allergies, and unfortunately for you, Albuquerque is having its worst year in history with a pollen outbreak.” I told him what golf course I happened to be on. He was like, “Oh, that’s why you were feeling the way that you were feeling. That golf course is filled with nothing but Juniper trees,” and my naivete I was like, “So what does Juniper trees have to do with it? And he said, “That tree produces pollen like no other, and this outbreak that we’re having right now is because of that.” He told me to go get ZYRTEC and that was years ago, and that was just organic to the relationship that we started with this project that we’re on right now.
Baltin: There’s a charity component involved as well, correct?
Anderson: It’s a charity component with the American Forests for their ReLeaf Program in planting trees in historically excluded communities. We look at what trees provide — trees provide filtering water, trees provide healthier air, trees provide absorbing the pollutants that are in the air, they also provide cooling off neighborhoods and shade, and that’s what this is. And I’m happy to be a part of this program with ZYRTEC and American Forests, it’s a wonderful thing that they’re doing. They’ve committed $150,000 to support the research and the advancing of tree equity in these communities. I look at the communities in which I was raised and brought up in Compton and Watts versus the community that I live in now, as a 51-year-old man who raised his children, surrounded by trees, surrounded by parks. And that wasn’t the case for me growing up. So I’m happy to be a part of the program that’s going to be planting trees in these communities.
Baltin: Also obviously a lot of people rediscovered the importance of being outdoors during Covid.
Anderson: It’s true. One of the reasons I love the game of golf is just because it keeps me outdoors, it keeps me out among the trees, out in a park like setting. I like to walk the course as opposed to drive the course because I believe it brings me closer to nature and it allows me just to be grounded in a way. Also, back to the initiative that we’re doing, it’s not only for under-served communities, but it’s for the betterment of the earth and for healthier and better earth in what this program is doing.
Baltin: What are your favorite courses?
Anderson: Ah! Well, we’re gonna have to go to the Old course in Scotland, Bel-Air Country Club here in Los Angeles that I’m currently on the list to become a member, Augusta, a lot of courses on Long Island on the East Coast, but those are a few.
Baltin: Now that Black-ish is done, what is next for you?
Anderson: It’s crazy, we wrapped back in November, November 19th, and December 2nd I was back in New York on Law & Order, so I’ve been doing Law & Order for the last few months. And it’s something different, but it’s still the same because it’s an old character. I’m reprising my character as detective Kevin Bernard. And looking forward to traveling with my mother,. We’re supposed to be traveling throughout Europe, shooting a reality show for about six weeks this summer, so I’m excited to get that started.
Baltin: What can you tell me about the reality show?
Anderson: We haven’t had a title yet, but I’d like to tell you that it’s the misadventures of me and my mom just traveling to different countries for six weeks with a camera crew following us, and us just doing all kinds of crazy things, jumping out of planes, going to the City of Parfum to see where fragrance was created, stomping grapes, making wine, learning how to make pasta from the scratch from some little old lady in Italy some place. But that’s it, just the adventures of mother and son, and given the relationship that my mom and I have had on our game show To Tell The Truth for the last seven years, has whet the appetite for people to see more. And so that’s what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna give them more and just take a European vacation for six weeks and film our adventures and cut that up into eight episodes for you to see over the course of it.
Baltin: When was the last time that you guys really traveled together?
Anderson: It’s been a couple of years. I took my mother on a trip to the Bahamas with Michael Jordan and myself. It’s been about four because of COVID. She is excited, she sent me a picture of her passport saying, “Baby it’s still valid. We’re still valid for another four years. We got some time, let’s go do it. So that’s what we’re about to do.
Baltin: Michael is obviously famously competitive. Do you guys play golf?
Anderson: We do. He used to give me strokes until I had a great game against him with my strokes, which I didn’t need by the way, for some reason, I was just on fire and I took $900 off of him. And at the end of the round, he threw the money at me, and he used an expletive that I’m not gonna use right now in this interview, but he said, “Mother f**ker, you’re never getting your strokes again, we’re playing straight up.” And so that’s our relationship, he’s very competitive, and I’m one of the few that can say I beat him at a couple of things.
Baltin: What’s the other?
Anderson: Dominoes. We played dominoes in the Bahamas, maybe 12 years ago, and I beat him, beat him bad. Two games, two games in a row, and most people would say Michael Jordan isn’t a quitter and doesn’t quit, well, he quit against me, I’ll tell you that much right now. Michael, I love you, so Michael if you ever see this interview, know that I didn’t go into this interview telling these people that, he pulled it out of me, and I love you.
Baltin: What’s the coolest outdoor activity that you recommend for people this summer?
Anderson: The coolest outdoor activity that I would recommend to people this summer is take a walk in the park, take your family to a forest, go out and see what nature has to provide and what nature has done for all of us. But while you’re out in nature, bring you a bottle of ZYRTEC because you never know when you’re gonna need it.