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INTERVIEW: Amber Stevens on how her ethnicity has affected her career

Amber Stevens stars in NBC’s new series, The Carmichael Show, and she’s very proud of the message it represents.

“It’s a show about a conversation. It’s a family having conversations,” Stevens said about the show that focuses on a family full of very opinionated people, some of whom aren’t afraid to voice their viewpoints no matter who they upset.

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Stevens said sometimes the show borders the line between appropriate and inappropriate, to hilarious results. “You get some people who say things you’re not really supposed to say out loud, but they say it,” she said, adding that the series takes an attitude of “anything goes.”

The series might look familiar to anyone who was around long enough to have seen another opinionated family on TV. “This show is very much like a throwback to the sitcoms of the ’70s, very much like All in the Family,” Stevens revealed.

Though it’s a comedy, the actress said that the series will touch on heavier subjects. Currently working on an episode titled “Protest,” Stevens revealed that it will ring true for many people. “It’s all about Black Lives Matter,” she said, adding that the episode will revolve around a black youth being shot by a police officer and the protest that results in the family’s hometown.

If the message sounds current, that’s on purpose. “We’re shooting these episodes so close to their air date so we can be as current as we possibly can,” Stevens shared.

Delivering a strong message is something that the actress is proud to be a part of, as her own career has been affected by her background. When she first began acting, Stevens did so mostly for fun and didn’t realize what it meant to be offered the kinds of roles she was being offered.

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“Yes, most of the roles were supporting roles because of my ethnicity, but I didn’t care,” she shared. “But over time I learned that I could do this and maybe do this as a career.”

But even when she was offered her first series, ABC Family’s hit series Greek, it was still in a supporting, friend role. Not that Stevens isn’t happy where her career ended up; in fact, she’s appreciative of where those roles have led her. “I’m grateful I had those opportunities and they were stepping stones to get to people who look like me to become leads of projects.

“I’m grateful that I have a chance right now to be on this show,” she said, adding that with all its messages and the diversity of the cast, the show is still just about a family that anyone can relate to, no matter their ethnic background. “To be honest, our show is a black family, but it’s kind of a colorless family.”

Another aspect of the show that Stevens appreciates is getting to work with an actress like Loretta Devine. “It’s really fun to see her work on set and I’m definitely taking notes from her,” Stevens said, likening her costar to someone else very special in her life.

“I tell her this everyday: She and my mom are like the same person. They’re sisters that have never met, they are so alike. I feel the same way about her that I feel about my own mom. I love her so much and her energy is contagious and her sense of humor is infectious.”

Speaking of mothers, Stevens’ character, Maxine, feels the pressure from her mom to get married and have children. But that’s one message that Stevens isn’t necessarily ready to shout to the world and, in fact, is quite happy to see has changed over the years.

“We don’t just have to do what nature says, so why not go out there and live your dreams and not have children?” Stevens said. “Or wait until you’re ready. You don’t have to do it when you’re young; you don’t have to marry the first person you meet. Go out there and date and find someone you really, really love and respect and want to have a family with,” she added.

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“My character even says: I don’t think that’s the sole purpose of a woman’s life is to get married and have children,” Stevens said, revealing she feels the exact same way herself.

Be sure to check out The Carmichael Show when it premieres on Monday, Aug. 26 at 9 p.m. on NBC.

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