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Blurred (color) lines on new series, ‘black-ish’

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Tracee Ellis Ross delivers perhaps the funniest line you’ll hear on a sitcom this fall.

The character she plays on ABC’s comedy black-ish is, like Ross, an appealing mix of beauty, brains and zaniness. She is totally plausible as a savvy mother of four and the loving wife of an up-and-coming ad exec (co-star Anthony Anderson) as well as a busy anesthesiologist.

In this upscale African-American family, Dr. Rainbow Johnson is biracial. This occasionally spurs Andre, her hubby, who’s forever fretting about the family’s black cred, to question whether she is certifiably “black.”

He does this in the series premiere (9:30 p.m. Wednesday), to which, unfazed, Rainbow fires back, “If I’m not really black, then could someone please tell my hair and my a-s!”

Reminded of that line during a recent AP interview, Ross cracks up.

“That’s what I love about our show,” she says. “With that line, my character sums it all up: ‘Are you still coming from the world that believes all black people are the same and all black people should think the same? C’mon, Dre!’ ”

Ross has dealt with that question in real life: She is the daughter of legendary vocalist Diana Ross and music business manager Robert Ellis Silberstein, who is white. She says early on she began to identify as being black (and is best known for her eight years as a star of Girlfriends, a comedy-drama with a black cast and perspective).

Why? “Mostly because I couldn’t identify as a white woman,” she replies, bursting into laughter. “But while I’m very comfortable identifying as a black woman, I’ve really had no interest in identifying as anything. On my college application, I checked ‘Black’ and ‘White.’’

PREMIERE GOES LIVE

Actor Charles Esten has more at stake in the new season of the ABC drama Nashville than resolving the cliffhanger that left his character, singer-songwriter Deacon Claybourne, in the midst of a lyricist love triangle.

During the season-three premiere, Esten, who sang in a band and stage productions long before becoming an actor, will perform a song he co-wrote with Grammy-nominated country singer Deana Carter, I Know How to Love You Now. It's his first co-written tune to appear on the show, but Esten has had plenty of practice after opening with co-star Clare Bowen for country stars Jennifer Nettles and Alan Jackson on a few shows during the summer hiatus.

“I've played some big rooms, but none as big as the whole United States,” said Esten in an AP interview while shooting on location in Nashville.

Esten and actor Chris Carmack will perform in the Wednesday show live from the show's Bluebird Cafe set. The studio versions of the songs will be available for download on iTunes immediately after the show that airs at 9 p.m..

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