weather icon Clear

10-year-old Las Vegan stars on ABC’s ‘Mixed-ish’

Ethan William Childress has two roles on the set of the new ABC comedy “Mixed-ish”: portraying the family’s young son Johan and making everyone else who works on the “Black-ish” prequel feel old.

Absurdly, painfully, feel-it-in-your-bones old.

The series, airing at 9 p.m. Tuesdays, takes place in 1985, and the show’s period-specific set was an eye-opener for the 10-year-old Las Vegas native.

“I was looking at this thing,” Childress remembers, “and then I pointed to it, and I asked Tika (Sumpter, who plays his mother), ‘What’s this?’ And she says, ‘It’s a phone.’ And I’m like, ‘What???’ ”

The experience led to one of his favorite jokey put-downs: “You’re so old, you know rotary phones.”

Relatively new to acting

Childress sits in the living room of his family’s valley home, looking back on his short route to success and trying to keep Remington, their 3-year-old Great Dane that’s larger than he is, from devouring everything in sight.

It’s a hiatus — the cast and crew get every fifth week off — and Childress is home for a few days to see his father, David, and 13-year-old brother, Braylon, for the first time in a month. He got off work around 8 p.m. Monday, then his mother, To-Hona, drove straight from the set to Las Vegas. Thursday night, the two of them will return to the apartment they’re renting less than a mile from the studio in Burbank, California, and start the process all over again.

Asked how he ended up on a TV series with relatively little acting experience, Childress credits “the radio and my dad.”

After hearing one of those commercials for paid workshops designed to turn young children into stars, David and To-Hona discussed the idea with Childress. “I said sure, because you never know until you try,” he says.

That was in January 2018. This February, following 64 mostly unsuccessful auditions for everything from movies to TV guest spots to print ads, Childress landed an audition for “Mixed-ish.” Eight days later, following a callback and a screen test, he was hired.

“It’s awesome,” he says of his new job. “It’s very cool to have all my friends super excited for me and hyped.”

Mature beyond his years

Childress isn’t 10 in the rehearsed, robotic style of some child actors who seem to answer questions by reciting a series of scripted responses. He’s conversational in a way that makes you suspect, ever so briefly, that he’s really 27 and just quite small for his age.

His maturity should prove an asset on a series that combines the silly with the serious.

Focusing on the childhood of “Black-ish” matriarch Rainbow Johnson (“Mixed-ish” co-creator Tracee Ellis Ross), the comedy begins with the family being forcibly removed from a commune — according to the government, it was “a radicalized cult in violation of over 47 ATF regulations” — and moving into a home owned by Rainbow and Johan’s grandfather (Gary Cole). In the premiere, Childress’ Johan marvels at the indoor toilet and assumes “it’s a portal to another dimension.” Later, he mistakes the sink in the school bathroom for “the high toilet.”

But the series also tackles grown-up themes of race and cultural identity and the fact that, in 1985, biracial — aka “mixed” — children like Childress were something of an anomaly.

“What I think happens is, since it’s a comedy, it’ll drag people in,” he explains, “and then it’ll teach them all these lessons throughout the episode.”

Making time for acting

When it comes to the production of a weekly TV series, the young actor basically is learning by doing.

“There’s lots of acting coaches to teach you how to act, but nobody to tell you what to expect after that,” To-Hona reveals.

Her career as a mortgage underwriter allows her to work remotely, so she accompanies her son to the set, where he’s legally allowed to be up to nine hours a day plus a 30-minute lunch break, although he usually works six or seven hours. She’s also around during the three hours of daily online schoolwork he completes with an assist from on-site teachers.

Childress keeps up with his dad, a legal secretary/paralegal, and brother back in Las Vegas daily through phone calls, texts, Skype, FaceTime and Discord — pretty much any way he can through his iPad.

“I’m one of those mean parents,” To-Hana says, “who doesn’t see a need for a 10-year-old to have a cellphone.”

‘Hey HEY hey’

As an actor, Childress has a reliable tutor in Mark-Paul Gosselaar.

The “Saved by the Bell” star, who’s been working steadily in Hollywood since he was 12, plays his father on the series, looks out for him and will help with his line readings.

“He’s very nice,” Childress says. “I’ve learned a lot from him.”

It took a village, though, to teach the 10-year-old the proper inflection of Dwayne’s signature “Hey HEY hey” catchphrase from “What’s Happening!!” that he quoted in the series premiere.

Of the 13 episodes ordered by ABC, nine have been filmed, and five have aired. Childress and his family are waiting to hear if “Mixed-ish” will earn a full season on the network.

‘This is my career now’

Regardless, the experience has changed the young man’s job outlook.

“I’m thinking this is my career now, but I’ve already thought of a few things, in case this doesn’t work out, that I would like to even just try.”

He had to stop playing sports when he took up acting, so professional football player or professional soccer player are on his list of backup careers, as is video game designer.

“I forgot how to code,” Childress says, meaning that he learned how to program video games at such a young age, those skills had time to atrophy and eventually escape him, all by the time he was roughly as old as some of the stuff in the back of your refrigerator.

“But,” he adds, “I would be willing to relearn it and make some games.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Smoked Sazerac at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in Las Vegas
Chase Jefferies, a bartender at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in Las Vegas, makes a Smoked Sazerac by shaking Hennessy, Bulleit Rye, Pernod Absinthe, maple syrup and Peychaud’s Bitters with ice, then filling a snifter with applewood smoke and pouring the drink over an oversized ice cube. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Red Rock Canyon free to all Monday for Veterans Day - VIDEO
In honor of Veterans Day, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is free to all visitors on Monday. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Artist dedicates heart sculpture on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Artist Katy Boynton dedicated her sculpture depicting a giant steel heart to the Las Vegas community Saturday night outside Fashion Show mall. (James Schaeffer /Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Warm Salt-Roasted Beets at La Cave Wine & Food Hideaway in Las Vegas
Chris Yamauchi, sous chef at La Cave Wine & Food Hideaway at Wynn Las Vegas, roasts fresh beets for three hours, peels, cubes and chills them, then sautés them with butter, sherry vinegar and black pepper and tops with goat cheese and pistachios. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
O.J. Simpson files lawsuit against The Cosmopolitan over TMZ story - VIDEO
A lawsuit filed Thursday alleges that The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas defamed O.J. Simpson when hotel employees told TMZ he was kicked out of the casino “for belligerence” in November 2017. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Smith Center will now be charging $5 fee to park - VIDEO
Patrons now have to pay to park to attend events at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in downtown, continuing a recent trend in the Las Vegas Valley. (James Schaeffer / Review-Journal)
Prove you're a local: Try to pronounce these Nevada cities - VIDEO
Try your hand at pronouncing these Nevada cities and watch as other locals from Downtown Summerlin attempt to get the names right along with you. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making Cochinita Pibil Tacos at Santos Guisados Tacos & Beer in Las Vegas
Lola Vasquez, a cook at Santos Guisados Tacos & Beer in Las Vegas, makes Cochinita Pibil Tacos by rubbing a pork shoulder with signature seasoning, marinating it in a mixture of achiote, peppercorns, clove, cumin, salt and fresh lime and orange juices and roasting overnight. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal )
Joey D'Ambrosio talks about playing on "Rock Around the Clock" - VIDEO
Saxophonist Joey D'Ambrosio, who lives in Henderson, was a member of Bill Haley & His Comets. “People were looking for something new,” D’Ambrosio said. "When they heard ‘Rock Around the Clock,’ there was something about that record that turned them on.” (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nation’s Largest Student Farmers Market
600 students participate in massive farmers market, Oct. 23,2019. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giant Student Farmers Market in Las Vegas
The largest student-run farmers market in the country involved 600 kids from more than 50 schools in the Las Vegas area selling fruits and vegetables grown at their schools. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ryan Reaves beer special in the Las Vegas Arts District - VIDEO
James Manos of Able Baker Brewing talks about offering a Golden Knights game-day promotion to celebrate partner Ryan Reaves at its Main Street tasting room. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas native Ethan William Childress of "Mixed-ish" - VIDEO
Interview with Las Vegas native Ethan William Childress, a young star of the new ABC comedy "Mixed-ish." (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review -Journal) @bizutesfaye
Sourdough Cafe at Arizona Charlie’s in Las Vegas makes horseradish potato chips - VIDEO
Sean Gassaway, room chef at the Sourdough Cafe at Arizona Charlie’s Decatur in Las Vegas, makes horseradish potato chips by heating prepared horseradish to remove some of the moisture, mixing it with kosher salt and further dehydrating it, tossing it with house-made chips and serving it as a monthly special with a bratwurst on a roll, sauerkraut, spicy mustard and a cup of cheese dip. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Central Perk coffee shop opens for business
As part of Saturday’s “Friends” Fan Experience at New York-New York hotel-casino, the artist Nathan Sawaya debuts his life-size, 700-square-foot re-creation of the show’s Central Perk coffee shop that’s constructed entirely out of Lego bricks. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Binion's debuts a spinning bar overlooking Fremont Street Experience - VIDEO
Binion's debuted its spinning bar inside the Whiskey Licker Up Saloon. The Rotating bar only goes at one full rotation per 15 minutes overlooking the Fremont Street Experience. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Green Eggs and Ham at Carson Kitchen in Las Vegas
Scott Simon, executive chef at Carson Kitchen in Las Vegas, makes a Green Eggs and Ham Flatbread with pistou, smoked mozzarella, tasso ham and eggs. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Lemon Semifreddo Dessert at Vetri Cucina in Las Vegas
Ashley Costa, pastry chef at Vetri Cucina at the Palms in Las Vegas, freezes lemon curd with whipped cream, sandwiches it between polenta-based crumiri cookies, sprinkles it with powdered sugar and drizzles it with argrumato, a lemon olive oil. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Las Vegas supermarket has a full-service wine and beer bar - VIDEO
Smith’s Marketplace on Skye Canyon Park Drive draws 300 people a day to socialize in what has become a neighborhood gathering spot. (James Schaeffer/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hard Rock Memorabilia Exhibition
The 2,600-square-foot exhibit, which is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays to Mondays through Jan. 31, spans eras and genres alike. There are numerous rare and never-before-seen items here, featuring artists from ZZ Top to Nine Inch Nails, Bo Diddley to Britney Spears. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Museum of Selfies coming to Las Vegas - VIDEO
The interactive attraction offers several new selfie opportunities. (Museum of Selfies)
Show of Strength in 'A Choreographers Showcase' - VIDEO
"A Choreographers Showcase" pairs artists from Nevada Ballet Theater and staff from all facets of Cirque du Soleil to design an annual show. (Elizabeth Page Brumleyy/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
David Chang talks about what to expect at his new restaurant, Majordomo Meat & Fish - VIDEO
David Chang tells fans what to expect at his new restaurant, Majordomo Meat & Fish, at The Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pink Lady and Rosey Mary cocktails at Therapy in Las Vegas
Terence Beach, bartender at Therapy restaurant in Las Vegas, makes original pink cocktails to benefit breast cancer research. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Torrijas dessert served at Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill in Las Vegas
Chef Christian Lee of Sugarcane at The Venetian in Las Vegas makes a dessert of torrijas, a Latin French toast, serving it with a caramelized-apple sauce and cinnamon ice cream. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
David Chang to sell Tasty Patties at Palazzo in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Chef David Chang has announced a casual concept that will accompany his new Majordomo Meat & Fish at Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Latkes, tzimmes at Market Place Buffet in Las Vegas for Rosh Hashanah
Ryan Swanson, Market Place Buffet room chef at the JW Marriott/Rampart Casino in Las Vegas, makes potato dishes as part of the resort’s Rosh Hashanah buffet. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
How Elphaba In "Wicked" turns green - VIDEO
Mariand Torres gets "painted" by makeup supervisor Joyce McGilberry for her role as Elphaba in "Wicked" at The Smith Center. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Hangover is served at The Crack Shack in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Khine Moore, executive chef at The Crack Shack at Park MGM in Las Vegas, makes The Hangover with a fried chicken breast or thigh dipped in honey-butter, sprinkled with Crack Seasoning and topped with an egg. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dessert Before Dinner winner Becky Quan
Nine of Las Vegas’ top women pastry chefs offered original creations built around Girl Scouts Trefoils shortbread cookies Saturday night at Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada’s annual Desserts Before Dinner Gala. The top dessert, as voted on by the audience, was an homage to Good Humor’s old-fashioned Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bars created by NoMad’s Becky Quan. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)