Karin Gist Talks Mixed-ish And The Importance Of Black Creatives Behind The Camera

The producers that brought you ABC ‘s hit show Black-ish, are back with its prequel series, Mixed-ish which focuses on Rainbow’s (Tracee Ellis Ross) childhood and her journey growing up in a mixed-race family in the ‘80s.

The show has tapped one of TV and film’s most powerful voices in the industry, Karin Gist as its showrunner.

Gist’s credits include writing and serving as supervising producer for 5 seasons of UPN’s hit show Girlfriends, showrunner of Fox’s STAR for 2 seasons, and writing and co-producing for shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Revenge, and House Of Lies.

Gist has dedicated her career in creating a range of diverse characters that have helped contribute to equal representation within the industry, and she’s just getting started.

Check out the interview as we talk to Gist about her career, the Mixed-ish spin-off, and what the future holds for the creative powerhouse.

The Shadow League: What inspired you to become a writer?

 Karin Gist:  I was a lawyer before but wasn’t very happy in doing that, and I moved out to L.A. to be a lawyer. And then TV was introduced to me and television writing was introduced to me and I hadn’t really thought about it before, but my mind and my heart just kept going back to the possibility of that. I’d always been interested in reading and writing. I was an English major at Spellman College. So, I just kind of gravitated towards that and when I saw my first television taping, I just fell in love with that and I knew this was the thing for me if I could figure out a way to get it.

TSL: This show is the third installment for the franchise… Why do you think audiences need a show like Mixed-ish?

KG: Well just like the other shows in the franchise ‘ish’ world, what this show will do is kind of tackle some issues and have social commentary.  And because it’s that and the 80s, and because it is set around a bi-racial family, we’re going to be tackling those issues from both sides of the conversation and so that is a little bit different from what Black-ish does.

It will be commenting on race, commenting on culture, and trying to get on some of those conversations in a deeper way and really just look at the differences in communities and the way we see each other and really try to have an honest conversation. And back in the ’80s, there was stuff you just couldn’t get away with. Now we have the ability to react and really look at it and talk about it and maybe laugh at it a little bit more. And with the distance, it’s like a safety net of being able to address some of the topics that are still going on today.

TSL: As we start to see a more diverse portrayal of African Americans on television, what’s the progression like for people of color behind the lens?

 KG: That’s always the trouble, I think. Yes, there’s been some progress made and there should be more progress made. So, I think it’s important for people who are in positions of power or have the ability to offer people of color and women a seat at the table, to do that. So that’s something that’s important to me and I know it’s important to a lot of my peers. So yeah, there’s been some progress but no enough of it.

TSL: Tika Sumpter and Mark-Paul Gosselaar both star in the show, what’s it like working on set?

 KG: They are all fantastic and just going back to the cast and the family in Mixed-ish. They found such great chemistry so early on.  We’re about to shoot episode 5, so it’s still early in the experience, but they just came to the table with love for the show and the subject matter and their characters. And it’s great to watch a family that hopefully everybody could fall in love with. And [Tracee] is just a fantastic voice on the show. You know America already loved her from being on Girlfriends. Tracee is everything alright! She has a really specific point of view and it’s been great to have kept her voice and her character and to be able to reunite and work with her again.

 TSL: Tell us about your time working on the hit show Girlfriends. Are we getting a reboot?

 KG:  I love that that was my first show. That was the show where I came up on, I call it like that high school and college of my career. I learned so much from the actors on this show, through the writing team, the writers on the show and [Mara]. The ability to learn how to write comedy, structure stories and get to the real character moments, I was so lucky that my first job was basically characters that look like me and that I could really identify with. People used to tell me that all the time that I was the youngest writer in the room at the time and some of the other writers would say how lucky I was for that to be my first [one].

I didn’t know at the minute in my career, but I look back now and realize how fortunate I really was. It’s great to be back and work with Tracee. I don’t know anything about a reboot, but that would be great. I’d love to see the ladies again.

 TSL: What other projects are you working on?

 KG: There’s Sister Act 3 Disney Plus. So, I’m writing that with another writer… Gina Hicks. That’s been fun, it’s a great franchise. I’m also writing a pilot for FOX right now. I have a development deal with 20 XL. I have a company that’s just about looking for projects and developing our ideas… I have a lot of things in the works.

Check out the trailer below:


Mixed-ish stars Arica Himmel, Tika Sumpter, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar and is narrated by Tracee Ellis Ross. The show premieres September 24th only on ABC networks at 8 p.m. EST, followed by the season premiere of the Black-ish starring Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross.

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