While Anthony Anderson got his start in stand-up, his wide range of genre-spanning credits as a producer and actor in light comedy, pointed satires, food-based reality shows and gritty episodic dramas display his versatility and cross-audience appeal. But even though it's not immediately apparent how the points on his resume connect in one straight line, all of his work harkens back to core values of family, togetherness, responsibility, fairness, justice, and doing right in a sometimes complicated world.
Born August 15, 1970, Anderson was one of four kids raised by his mother and stepfather (the man he considered his "only father I knew or cared about") in Compton, Los Angeles, California. While their neighborhood could be rough, his no-nonsense stepfather, who owned three clothing stores, instilled a respect for paternal responsibility and entrepreneurship in Anderson. While Anderson remembers seeing a teenage Dr. Dre perform at Compton's most important hip-hop venue Skateland, U.S.A., his most formative memory of a performer was watching his mother rehearse for an amateur production of A Raisin in the Sun at Compton Community College. Even though both he and his mother agree that she was a terrible actress, the impression of her becoming someone else on stage solidified his ambitions.
His ambitions stoked, young Anderson seized every opportunity to perform, whether it was singing at church, competing in spelling bees, or appearing in a commercial at the age of five. After successfully auditioning for Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, he won the top prize in the NAACP's Act-So awards and gained entrance to Howard University's drama program with an audition tape that included monologues from Shakespeare and "The Great White Hope". (Anderson's stepfather, always the pragmatist, took extraordinary measures to push Anderson out of the nest after college by not only insisting he pay rent if he wanted to live at home, but also by padlocking the TV cabinet and freezer, installing a pay phone in the house, and razzing Anderson with Lassie reruns: "That dog's an actor. Where are you acting?")
Too-strange-to-be-fiction family lore like that formed the basis of Anderson's stand-up comedy routines that he performed briefly under the name "Tasty Tony" while picking up small roles in TV and movies until 1999, when he landed roles both in the Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy comedy Life, and Barry Levinson's cinematic memoir Liberty Heights. A slew of roles in a wide range of genres followed for the next few years, culminating in recurring roles on Treme as actor-waiter Derek Watson, on The Shield as Antwon Mitchell, the drug boss turned community leader who still keeps one foot in the thug life, and on Law & Order as conservative lawman Detective Kevin Bernard, a role for which he earned four consecutive NAACP Image Award nominations for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series.
Anderson's other great passion, for food and cooking, has led to many hosting gigs on shows like Carnival Cravings with Anthony Anderson, Eating America with Anthony Anderson, the web series Anthony Eats America, and his recurring seat at the judge's table on Iron Chef America. While his everyday diet is "vegan-ish" as a way of regulating his type 2 diabetes, he's so devoted to the kitchen arts that he takes weekend classes at famed culinary academy Le Cordon Bleu's Los Angeles outpost.
While his first forays into producing the sitcoms All About the Andersons and Matumbo Goldberg (both about domestic life from an African-American perspective) ended after one season, conversations with his screenwriter friend Kenya Barris about their experiences raising their children in affluent, majority-white communities that are so unlike the neighborhoods they grew up in inspired the duo to create and produce black-ish. Taking a page from unflinching sitcoms of the '70s like All In The Family and Good Times that mixed light humor with frank confrontation of social ills, Barris and Anderson folded incidents from their own lives into the show's scripts - such as the time Anderson's teenage son wanted a bar mitzvah party like all his Jewish friends, prompting Anderson to instead offer his son a hip-hop themed "bro mitzvah." Anderson received an Emmy nomination for his role as beleaguered patriarch Andre Johnson in 2015.