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5 Questions with Malcolm Jamal Warner on 'Reed Between the Lines' & Black Love

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Malcolm Jamal Warner
Like "The Cosby Show,J" "Reed Between the Lines" is not about a Black family, but about a family that happens to be Black, says Malcolm Jamal Warner about his new sitcom on BET.

Malcolm, former child star and everybody’s teen crush (hello Theo?), keeps up on "Reed" the "Cosby" ethos of portraying positive images of Black family life on television. He plays loving husband, father and astute professor, Alex Reed.

We chatted with Malcolm about the Cosby factor, working with Tracee Ellis Ross and Black love on television.

ESSENCE.com: Everyone’s comparing ‘Reed Between the Lines’ to ‘The Cosby Show.’ What do you say to that?
MALCOLM JAMAL WARNER: I think we’re in a different time, we’ve all grown up on ‘The Cosby Show’ and we’ve all been educated that the Huxtables really do exist. Among the really important things The Cosby Show’ did, chiefly it forced Black America and White America to finally recognize the Black middle class. We’ve been educated to the fact that it would make sense that Cliff and Claire were a doctor and a lawyer because there was a whole generation where they were the first ones to go to college and their parents were going to make sure they became doctors and lawyers.

ESSENCE.com: What’s it like working with the gorgeous Ms. Ross?
MALCOLM: Oh man, it’s complete torture (laughs). It’s funny, I say that work in front of the crew and everybody just laughs. It’s been awesome, we started working with the writers back in January and we formed a really great friendship and partnership. We’re both producers on the show and it’s been great. I tell people that this is the best non-physical love affair that I’ve ever had in my life. Part of that is our approach to the business -- neither one of us is trying to be stars, we’re not on the grind trying to become rich and famous and based on our lives we never have.

ESSENCE.com: ‘Girlfriends’ and The Cosby Show’ still air regularly. Do you and Tracee make an effort to remove yourselves from Theo Huxtable and Joan?
MALCOLM: [Tracee] will often do something and say, ‘No that was a Joan-ism,’ and for me it’s been something I’ve been working on ever since ‘Cosby.’ Since I’ve been doing sitcoms for so long, I know how to change my energy, my physicality.

ESSENCE.com: How do you feel Black love is portrayed on TV?
MALCOLM: I think aside from the Black programming on TV, one of the exciting things about this show is that we all can watch. The concept of a family show, a show that the whole family can sit down and feel comfortable watching without being corny. Like 'Cosby,' 'Reed Between the Lines' is not about a Black family but about a family that happens to be Black. From onset that's one of the initial comparisons people subconsciously made, that, this is show predicated on typical Black humor.

ESSENCE.com: What do you hope comes across on this show that isn't being depicted on a regular basis?
MALCOLM: This is not a show that's shuckin' and jivin', it's not a show that has yo' momma jokes or 'you so ugly' jokes. Those are all elements that typically work for Black sitcoms. ‘Reed Between the Lines' is trying to go more of the 'Cosby' route than the typical Black sitcom route. Mind you, I worked for UPN, so I'm not trying to diss anything or anybody (laughs), but this is a show I'm confident that we can all be proud of.

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