Reel Talk: Anthony Anderson

We’ve seen him take on a number of roles over the years, but even when he’s in a serious movie like, say, The Departed, he always seems to hit us with the comic relief.

The 42-year-old Anderson, who’s dropped nearly 50 pounds, is a new man. He’s still funny – we see evidence of that on his new NBC show, Guys with Kids, where he plays husband to Cosby Show alum Tempestt Bledsoe. But the funny was never about the fat. Anderson has Type 2 Diabetes, lost a dad to the disease and is a spokesperson for pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. Seeing as how November is National Diabetes Awareness month, The Shadow League had to check in with Anderson to chat weight loss and lifestyle change. And extra large nipples.

TSL: What made you do a lifestyle shift? You’ve known your diabetes diagnosis for a long time.

ANDERSON: I lost my father to diabetes, so that is what really made me conscious about what it is that was going on with me, and my life and my body and all of that. I didn’t want to do that to my children, my wife and my family.

I’m sorry to hear about your father …

Thank you. It was a matter of living with the disease and overcoming it or dying from it, and I chose to live with it and to overcome it. It’s not like he passed on a Tuesday and Wednesday morning I was like, ‘OK, let me get in the gym, let me do this!’ I’ve been diagnosed as a type-2 diabetic for almost 12 years now. About four years ago … it was like, ‘You know what? I need to change this. I need to get control over this before it really takes control over me and my life.’ And that was the choice that I made, to eat healthier, to get a nutritionist, to eat less, to get in the gym, to get a trainer, to get a bike and ride around New York while I was living in New York filming Law & Order.

Starting is the most difficult part. Where did you start?

Nutritionist first. I didn’t really get in the gym until I left New York and came back home to LA after Law & Order. So it was just a nutritionist. I went on this paleo program, eating clean and no meat. Well, actually, the only meat that I ate was fish and chicken, but just eating…and the meat had no hormones and all of my vegetables were organic, no pesticides or anything like that. So I did that for 30 days, and never really got in the gym with that. But what I found at the end of my 30-day period, I transformed three pounds of fat into three pounds of muscle just by eating clean and eating healthier. I didn’t lift a weight, didn’t do anything. If this transformation is happening just by eating properly, what would happen if I incorporated just a little bit of exercise? And so that’s when the exercise came in; and the exercise came in the form of me just walking past the bike shop one day and I was like…I actually woke up one morning, on a Sunday morning…Saturday morning, I went walking and I was like, I want a bike. And I was actually gonna buy a piece of furniture and I was gonna walk up about 60 blocks and I walked about 10 and I was like, You know what, there has to be a bike shop around here. Let me go get a bike. And so I did. I just, I literally walked into a bike shop and bought a bike, rode down to the furniture store…actually it was the furniture store, I was going to Best Buy to get something for my internet connection, so I was like…I rode down to Best Buy on my bike, the 60 blocks, and it felt good and then I just continued to ride around the city. Whenever I needed something, I was like, Oh, let me go get on my bike and do it.

Now you’re back in L.A. filming Guys with Kids. Do you still ride? Or are you spinning now?

I jog. Before I started my new television show, I would jog three to five miles every other day, just on my treadmill in my house. I’ve been off my game that way for the last couple of months because of filming. Two days ago, I started back up and I’m…I am feeling it today. Like, I’m walking around rehearsal right now yawning and they’re like, ‘Hey, you have a long night last night?’ And I was like, No, I got up this morning and f—ing put on a program on my treadmill that I never had, so I ran hills this morning and I’m feeling it!

You’re the spokesperson for Eli Lily. What made you want to team up with them?

I would look at commercials for medicines for diabetes, and I didn’t see representations of me. I saw Wilfred Brimley, an old white man; I saw BB King, an old black man; and I saw Patty LaBelle, and I would never call her an old black woman, but she is mature! I reached out to them and saw what they were doing in our community and just became a part of it, and it’s been three years strong now.

When you changed your life, did everyone in the house have to change too?

No. I was the only fat ass in my house. I was the only one that woke up in the middle of the night and snuck off to Taco Bell. My daughter is a star volleyball player, my son plays every sport. He’s running cross-country now, so they’re all fit. I’m the only lazy one.

A lot of funny actors who are big guys are worried about losing weight because they don’t want to lose gigs. Was that ever a concern for you?

Not at all! And a lot of people who saw me in the early stages of me losing the weight were like, ‘Man, aren’t you afraid you’re not gonna be funny anymore? You’re gonna lose your funny!’ I was like, ‘Well, first off, dog, my comedy and the work that I’ve done was never predicated on my weight. It was never about that. Secondly, I’m not worried about that. What I’m worried about is having a long and healthy life, and if this is what I have to do and this is the transformation I have to make so I can be here to enjoy the spoils of my success and to continue to entertain you and make you laugh, then this is what I’m gonna do!’ Nobody’s ever hired me because they were like, ‘Yo, we need to get Anthony, cause he’s fat and funny.’ I never heard that. I only heard, ‘We need to get Anthony because he’s funny.’ I’m stepping away from the Joe Leo, the comic relief guy to be the leading man. Denzel, watch out, Jack, I’m coming.

And now you’re the leading man in this new series. How’s it going for you?

We’re having fun. You know, I get to kiss on Tempestt Bledsoe every week, I get to play with these babies every week and my co-stars are really great. It’s just a great show that people are really responding to.

Are we seeing a little bit of you on camera? You’re a dad and a father in real life too. Is this what you’re like at home?

I’m channeling my inner-dad from when my babies were babies. I’m the only father on the show, so you know the guys look to me for guidance. It’s like, ‘Yo Ant, how do you keep this baby from crying? How do you keep this baby still when you’re holding it?’

So now that you’re healthier, does this mean that you get a chance to get out there and be active with your kids now too?

I was always active. I just sweat less and I don’t breathe as hard. I was my son’s football coach when he first started off playing. But now we go out and we run together now. It’s easier to walk around and run around and play with the kids and be athletic and 222 pounds than it was at 269 pounds.

So 47 pounds down. Nice. Are you done losing now?

I want to lose a little more. Talk to the doctors they say, ‘According to the BMI chart, I’m supposed to be 189 pounds,’ and I keep telling all my doctors ‘ look at the size of my head. I will never be able to stand up at 189 pounds with a head as big as this.’ I would love to get down to about 200, 210. I would love to lose another 15 pounds. But, you know, I look at old pictures, I look at old clothes and now I’m just like, ‘Wow, I am a completely different dude.’ I look at myself on my show and other shows that I do and I was like, ‘Damn, I look good.’ I look healthy. I don’t have to shop at the big and tall store anymore. You know?

I do know. That has to feel amazing.

Yeah. I was never tall. I was always big. I don’t want to be the guy who’s lost the weight and thinks he can get into an extra medium shirt now. That’s what they have me doing on this show. You know, they put me in these too-tight sweaters and t-shirts now. Now my nipples are exposed and I’m like, ‘Yo, I’m gonna poke somebody’s eye out with these nipples!’ And you laugh, but it’s true because now they give me pasties to wear under my t-shirts because apparently there was a note session at NBC and they were like, ‘Yo, the show is great, but Anthony’s nipples are distracting. Can we do something about that?!’

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