How ’80s is ‘Mixed-ish’?

Mixed-ish is not just the latest addition to the Black-ish universe. Mixed-ish takes Black-ish back to the ‘80s. Black-ish and its spinoff Grown-ish take place in modern day. Mixed-ish takes place in the ‘80s when Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross) was just a little girl (Arica Himmel). As much as Mixed-ish deals with Bow and her siblings (Mykal-Michelle Harris and Ethan William Childress) coming from a white father (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and black mother (Tika Sumpter), it is also about childhood in the ‘80s.

L-R: Gary Cole, Christina Anthony, Arica Himmel, Mykal-Michelle Harris, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Ethan William Childress, Tika Sumpter on Mixed-ish | Brian Bowen Smith/ABC via Getty Images

Executive Producers Peter Saji and Karin Gist joined cast members on a Television Critics Association panel for Mixed-Ish in August. They detailed all the ‘80s fun you can expect on Mixed-ish. Mixed-ish premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on ABC before the season premiere of Black-ish.

‘Mixed-ish’ will pay for real ‘80s music

The ‘80s was an iconic decade for music. You can’t fake it, so Mixed-ish is prepared to have real classic ‘80s hits in their show. 

“We have a tremendous music budget,” Saji said. “It’s a huge deal because I think the music helps set the vibe. We want to have an immersive ’80s experience, and the music is a big part of that. So we’re going to be doing a lot of needle drops every episode.”

The cast of ‘Mixed-ish’ will wear their ‘80s best

No one can mistake the fashion of the ‘80s for any other era. All the characters will have their own ‘80s style. Christina Anthony, who plays Aunt Denise, loves hers.

Mixed-ish star Christina Anthony
Mixed-ish star Christina Anthony | Troy Harvey/ABC via Getty Images

“The clothing is the bomb dot com. It’s so fun to see these things, especially for me when I was a child watching my real aunt Denise kind of be this super cool woman in a bedazzled jean jacket. Also, what I really love about the clothes, especially for Denise, is she has a motto that being black is poppin’. And what better way to show that than just the excellent style that black women have carried throughout the decades.”

Christina Anthony to the Television Critics Association, 8/5/19

‘Mixed-ish’ won’t go quite full ‘Stranger Things’ on the ‘80s

Stranger Things, as well as The Goldbergs, are shows that get specific about ‘80s movies that their characters watch. Mixed-ish will take a more generalized approach to ‘80s culture.

Arica Himmel on Mixed-ish
Arica Himmel on Mixed-ish | Richard Cartwright via Getty Images

“We wanted 1985 to be a character as far as culture as opposed to pop culture,” Saji said. “So I don’t think we’re going to try to rely on movies and film as much as unless they sort of tell a story about how this family is trying to sort of find their way in this new world.”

2019 kids are learning all about the ‘80s

Viewers who grew up in the ‘80s will remember the things they see on Mixed-ish. The actors playing the kids weren’t even born yet in the ‘80s. They’re just concentrating on the characters and trusting the grown-up producers with the’ 80s.

Arica Himmel, Mykal-Michelle Harris and Ethan Williams
L-r: Mixed-ish stars Arica Himmel, Mykal-Michelle Harris, Ethan William Childress | Troy Harvey/ABC via Getty Images

“My character is all the sassy you get in the world,” Michelle Harris said. “She’s the tiniest, she’s the cutest, at least in my point of view. She is the sassiest. She is and she already found her place in this mixed world. And she’s always right, at least she thinks.”

“My character, I can really relate to him,” Williams said. “We’re both very adventurous and curious. We love to try new things, and he takes on very different personalities. Let’s just say that.”

Himmel is just trying to get Bow Johnson right.

“I did watch some reruns of Black ish and [I’ve] seen Rainbow and her tactics, what she would do,” Himmel said. “I also knew that I could add my own elements to the character.”

‘Mixed-ish’ will have an ‘80s take on race

Black-ish has the modern perspective on race. Mixed-ish takes it back to when society had crossed even fewer hurdles in dealing with race. 

Mixed-ish executive producer Karen Gist
Mixed-ish executive producer Karin Gist | Troy Harvey/ABC via Getty Images

“What we’re aiming to do in the writers’ room and to put on the screen is to have conversations that I think about race that we can have back in the ’80s that might feel a little bit safer in that world to discuss,” Gist said. “[They] still are really relevant to what we’re going through now as a nation. So we are using these voices to kind of explore some of those things, comment on race back then, but also bring it into the current conversation now.

Saji added, “Trying to make sort of present relevant through the past, because as you see, there’s so many things that sort of become cyclical and sort of happen again. So I think, in a good way, we’re going to talk about issues that were prevalent in 1985 but will resonate with audiences today.”