The stars just keep on coming on Black-ish. First Daveed Diggs showed up as Bow’s brother; now acclaimed actress Lorraine Toussaint (Orange is the New Black) is shaking up the Johnson clan as Great Aunt Almaviligerais (A.V), Pops’ sister who arrives unexpectedly for Thanksgiving. Everyone is excited to see her for the Nov. 16 episode, “Auntsgiving” — except Ruby (Jenifer Lewis) who blames A.V. for everything that went wrong in her marriage to Pops (Laurence Fishburne).
The episode was a chance for Toussaint to “play in the sandbox” with her old friends, including Fishburne, Lewis, Anthony Anderson, and Tracee Ellis Ross, but her familiarity with the cast didn’t make the job any less terrifying.
“It’s been years and years and years since I played in the comedy word,” said Toussaint, who was given a week off her current show Rosewood to film the upcoming episode. “There is a saying, ‘Dying is easy, Comedy is hard.’ I was really terrified that first day,” she says.
Toussaint’s character is Pops’ older sister, a woman essentially charged with her younger brother’s well-being after their parents abandoned them. “There is a lot of hustle in Pops and there is a fair amount of hustle in my character,” adds Toussaint. “I think she did whatever she needed to do, but I think she’s done fairly well. She would consider herself an entrepreneur.”
The primary conflict in the episode stems from Ruby’s disappointment in seeing A.V. again. The two were best friends in their early years, but now there is little love between them. For Toussaint, it was a joy to play opposite Lewis, whom she calls iconic. “It was so much fun, I can’t tell you, says Toussaint. “She has held me responsible for their break up all these years later and she hates me. She’s hateful. Funny and hateful.”
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Black-ish creator Kenya Barris, whom Toussaint met for the first time, also impressed her. “He’s intense,” she says. “He’s deeply attached to these characters and these storylines and is quite purposeful in the stories he’s putting out. He really does mean to bring about change. I admire his courage.”
Toussaint’s Thanksgiving episode will air Nov. 16, and a new episode of Black-ish airs tonight at 9:30 p.m. ET on ABC.