Extradinary actor and creator Anthony A. Anderson received Emmy nominations for his new series “Anacostia,” which shares stories from his childhood in the shadow of the nation's capital. (Photo Courtesy of Anthony Anderson)

By Cara Williams,
Special To the AFRO

Anthony A. Anderson,  son of Southeast Washington, D.C., transformed his “East of the River” childhood experiences into his hit series, “Anacostia,” an acclaimed new show that has gotten him nominated for a 2022 Emmy Award for Outstanding Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama in both the Daytime and PrimeTime categories.

“I am completely overwhelmed with excitement and fear with this nomination. As an independent content creator of color, my main concern has always been visibility and today was a day where I can say we’ve been seen by our peers. This gives encouragement to all my colleagues to keep going and to never stop,” he said of the recent honor. 

This is not Anderson’s first Emmy Award winning performance. Anderson won his first daytime Emmy in 2015 for outstanding performance in a new drama series for the web production of Anacostia. He received two previous Daytime Emmy nominations and a National Capital Area Emmy Award nomination this year.

The real Anacostia behind the series 

To understand the series Anacostia, you’ve got to know the close-knit bustling Black neighborhood tucked into a corner of Southeast D.C., just across the bridge that was Anderson’s child-hood home.

The Anacostia before Starbucks arrived.  The Anacostia when Former Mayor Marion Barry was king and champion of Ward 8.  

The close-knit but neighborhood that is home to a young man with dreams as big as the 4000-pound African Mahogany Duncan Phyfe dining room chair everyone in the neighborhood just calls “The Big Chair.” 

Born and bred to a single mother, Annie Mae, in Southeast D.C. (Anacostia), Anderson grew up with two older sisters and an older brother.

Although his father was absent from the home, and had another family, the eight siblings that were his father’s children were brothers and sisters, too. Anderson was the youngest of both sets of children. 

Anderson said he lived in a home where performing for the family was a routine at parties, but it also prepared him for a larger stage. 

Like many children today, Anderson struggled with being bullied in school, due to a speech impediment and his small size, which made him an easy target. 

“Because I got picked on a lot, I just would not talk,” Anderson said.

After one of his teachers noticed that he would not talk in class or participate in reading aloud, Anderson was placed in speech therapy. Therapy became a blessing to the young Anderson, who became outgoing and soon recognized by his teachers as an exceptional talent.

Teachers started recommending Anderson for talent shows, impressed by his ability to mimic Michael Jackson.  By the time Anderson reached middle school, the boy who was once an easy target for bullies found himself in the school’s gifted and talented program. 

“My eyes opened to the world of entertainment,” Anderson said. 

The actor visited the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in Harlem, N.Y., where he fell in love with the performing arts. 

He gave his best to excel on stage. “My first job was at the African American Dance Center on Benning Road,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s first professional acting job, he starred in an independent film called ‘Misunderstandings’ by Malik Pollard.

He watched the experienced actors, took in what they were teaching, and hired an agent to find him jobs. After a series of unsuccessful auditions, Anderson, like many other Black male contemporaries including Tyler Perry and his namesake Anthony Anderson (Black-ish) started producing his own projects. 

His first creation in 2007 was called the ‘Ties That Bind.’  He produced it himself, hired the actors, and performed the show with local acclaim at several area festivals. 

Anderson used proceeds from “Ties That Bind” to write his second movie when he stumbled upon the revelation to transform a movie length feature into shorter episodes – a mini-series. 

He started Southeast Boy Productions in October 2009, and utilizing web technology, the first episode of “Anacostia” appeared, born of Anderson’s experience growing up in the eclectic S.E. Black community.  

“I took a lot of things that you hear in the neighborhood and witnessed, and I turned it into many of the characters on the show,” Anderson said.

This production was harrowing for Anderson and was a labor of love and loss.

In 2010, producing Anacostia took everything Anderson had, literally.  The young actor and producer fell behind on bills. He was evicted from his apartment; his car was repossessed but he was not deterred. 

Anderson slept on his mother’s couch and took the Metro to film locations believing what his mother always told him, that what he lost, God would give back to him.  “And indeed He did,” said Anderson. “There was no quit in me.” 

The Anacostia series is available on Amazon Video. 

Entertainment industry’s commitment to people of color – still in process 

Anderson realizes that Hollywood’s representation of Black actors, producers and directors has been lackluster, but sees a slow change. More roles are now available to Black actors once confined to roles like enslaved servants, house cleaners and butlers or drug dealers. 

“The industry talks about diversity and inclusion but is often guilty of excluding Black actors and actresses, and this has to change,” Anderson said. 

“There are four African-Americans nominated for short from acting and actress categories, and just because we are, as they say, “below the line categories,” they forget about us,” he added. 

“It’s still an accomplishment, and people should celebrate everyone no matter where they are on the list,” he continued.

Anderson still funds his own projects and hopes the Emmy nomination will garner the kinds of sponsorships that will allow him to focus on the creative work. 

He also hopes that the recent reference to him by his idol Anthony Anderson of ‘Black-ish’ on the Jimmy Fallon show will help forge a bond and lead to collaborative projects. 

Anderson’s upcoming projects include a reality series about life in D.C. in the LGBTQ+ community called ‘City Boys’ and a documentary and film. Filming for his movie begins this fall with a Spring 2023 release date.

Anderson is on the path to representing the D.C. area in the film industry as Tyler Perry did for Atlanta.

“So I see what Tyler Perry is modeling in Atlanta.  I respect and admire that, and I want to do that for this area,” Anderson said.

However, between now and the Emmy Awards Ceremony in September 2022, Anderson is laser-focused on raising his own 17 year-old son and choosing their attire for the ceremony.

Help us Continue to tell OUR Story and join the AFRO family as a member – subscribers are now members!  Join here!