GREENVILLE — Actor and producer Anthony Anderson was on a family vacation in Mexico during some rare time off last year when he received an unexpected phone call from NBA star Chris Paul regarding a very interesting golf proposition.
Paul, whose brother, C.J., played at USC Upstate, had one last opening in a high-profile foursome that would also include former President Barack Obama and Olympic hero Michael Phelps. It ended up becoming by far the most expensive round of golf Anderson ever played with part of his money leaving in Obama’s pocket.
“I actually turned down (the opportunity) because I was with my family and when I hung up the phone they all looked at me like I was crazy,” said Anderson, who is in the Upstate playing in the BMW Charity Pro-Am. “They asked me what I thought I was doing and I said we were on a family vacation and we rarely get to do this. They were like, no, no, no, if there’s one thing we’ll allow you to do while on a family vacation it’s to go play golf with President Obama.”
Anderson said he immediately searched for flights, but it was late in the day and the last commercial plane out of Cabo had departed.
“So I bit the bullet and found a (private) jet and went and played. It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a golfer.”
Already heavily into his wallet to splurge for transportation, Anderson had to dig even deeper after the round when he, Phelps, and Paul all lost money to the former president (a total of $1,600 from what Anderson told the “Tonight Show”) and Obama trash-talked the entire time while beating them.
“I questioned him and asked if he was allowed to gamble and take someone’s money, and he said I’m no longer president, I’m a civilian, so yes I can,” Anderson added.
Anderson also teed it up with President Donald Trump before he was elected, to which the TV star would say only, “I have had the opportunity to play with Trump before he was in office years ago and that’s all I will say about that.”
Anderson initially formed a relationship with Obama through the former president’s public declaration of how much he and wife, Michelle, enjoy Anderson’s current ABC sitcom “Black-ish.” Having recently been renewed for a fifth season, the comedy follows an upper-middle class African-American family and goes outside the mainstream box in using race and many difficult societal issues as central themes. Anderson portrays the head of the family and is an executive producer of the show that was created by his working partner, Kenya Barris.
Anderson has been nominated for numerous Emmy and Golden Globe Awards as both an actor and producer on the show. Through all the success he appears most thrilled the sitcom has become a unique and often important talking-point, both emotionally and with it’s straight-forward handling of tough issues, setting it apart from most half-hour comedies.
“I’m very proud and happy for what our show is doing,” Anderson said. “I’m even more excited about how the fans receive the show. It’s very personal for us to tell these stories and to have an audience accept them and receive them the way they do across the board — white, black, Hispanic, Asian, or whatever. For me, the biggest compliment we’ve ever gotten is from all walks of life, they say when they see my television family they see their family. So that’s a big feather in our cap.”
Anderson said there was zero intent in the origins of the show to make some sort of political statement, to be a trendsetter or bring about some form of cultural change.
“No, that wasn’t our intent because when you go out with those intentions, sometimes you fall short and fail. We just want to make a show that’s authentic to who we are and to our voice and to our experiences and struggles and for an audience to accept and receive that it lets us know we’re doing something different.
“The specificity in which we tell these stories with these characters is what allows our show to be received by a broader audience. We just want to tell our stories, that’s our lean, our place, and for it to be received as well as it has been it’s turned into something bigger than what we expected it to be.”
In addition to having acted in popular TV shows and movies such as “Law and Order,” “The Shield” and “The Departed,” Anderson has hosted and/or participated in golf shows, cooking shows, and game shows. When asked if he’s been the busiest person in Hollywood, he replied, “No, Sam Jackson is doing a little more. I’m still trying to play catch-up to Sam, he’s the leader of the pack.”
Jackson, along with actor Don Cheadle (also in town for this week’s BMW Charity Pro-Am), are among Anderson’s regular foursome at his home course in California and he admits he’s always made golf a top priority because he loves the game so much.
“What better way to have fellowship than out in nature on a beautiful course with great cigars, great tequila, and sometimes great golf swings.”