"The conversations are happening and changes are being
made." ~ Kenan Thompson
When thinking of major primetime television
networks, the big wigs are NBC, ABC, FOX, and CBS. However, NBC has had a long history
of high rated and successful television shows with Black leads such as Fresh
Prince of Bel-Air, A Different World, 227, Different
Strokes, and, in the present day, Kenan.
With the quality of those shows, networks have
had to make better contributions of modern-day representation for people of
color and their audiences. Since the evolution of the #MeTooMovement, in
addition to controversial #BlackLivesMatter era, networks have upped the ante
with Black leads that honor leadership, heroic acts, and, most importantly, the
building of new archetypes that mirrors what's been in existence.
Kenan Thompson, veteran comedic actor known
for his roles in Good Burger, All That, SNL, and his
self-entitled show Kenan, has found himself transitioning with the times
Kenan tells the
story of a news weatherman raising school aged children as a single parent since
the death of his wife. According to Characteristics of Children's Families from
the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics,
African American homes have the highest rate of single parent households with
mothers only, while fathers take second place, and two parent households coming
in a low third.
When Thompson was asked how he felt regarding
representation of strong Black fathers being seen on television now, he said,
"It's absolutely necessary. You can't have programming be beneficial to
audiences, especially Black audiences, without seeing what they see." He added
an important factor that's relatable to many, saying, "Not every Black person
grows up without a father and we show that on the show because it's a need for
Father figure roles in Black households have
had a significant impact in culture, along with stereotypes that are not always
befitting to society. Iconic figures such as Uncle Phil, James from Good
Times, Carl Winslow from Family Matters, and, of course, Bill Cosby
from one of NBCs longest running shows in history, The Bill Cosby Show,
have served a purpose in idealism.
Thompson revealed, "The honor of those
characters were a part of those eras and that's gold. You see Kenan working to
foster his family while being vulnerable and, sometimes, we don't get enough of
that from Black fathers." He also claimed, "I had family time as a little boy
and I valued that and I value it today with my own family. The show doesn't
give a reality that I don't know, but instead, it gives a reality that's a part
Not only has Thompson embraced representation,
but he also assisted in incorporating Black art on the show from artist Chloe Mackenzie. Mackenzie was posting her
artwork during quarantine and, with the power of Instagram, she was contacted
by the show's set designer who was looking for Black female representation.
During a recent interview with the South Bend Tribune, she explained as to how
she received the kind recognition. "I got a message from the designer." She
didn't take it seriously right away. "I Googled it, and it was legitimate. I
was so excited."
Thompson concluded, saying, "NBC has been good
to me and the others on the show. They choose to understand, which gives the
result that's needed."
Kenan airs on NBC
Tuesday nights at 8:30p.m. ET/PT.