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Ashley Nicole Black was not looking to adopt a dog. But life had other plans. The former writer and correspondent on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (for which she won an Emmy) traveled to Puerto Rico to shoot a special on the six-month anniversary of Hurricane Maria. While she was there, she visited The Sato Project, an organization that rescues abandoned and abused dogs, to report on the storm’s devastating effect on the island’s people and animals. As a sort of prop, she was handed a mellow and unimpressed dumpling of a street dog named Gordi, who — spoiler alert — is presently grazing on some grass outside her home in the Hollywood Hills.
If you know Ashley Nicole Black’s work, then her moxie shouldn’t surprise you. For the past few years, she has masterfully pushed comedic boundaries writing for critically acclaimed shows including Ted Lasso, The Amber Ruffin Show, and A Black Lady Sketch Show — the latter of which she also stars in. She has been nominated for eight Emmys (two of which were in the same category in the same year) and will host the 2022 Writers Guild Awards next weekend. And those are just the credits she can mention. Many more projects are on the way under her recently announced overall deal with Warner Bros. Television, including the tentatively-titled The Other Hamilton, a show about Wall Street’s first Black millionaire. We chatted with the creative multi-hyphenate about one of her favorite ongoing projects: pet parenthood.
Tell me a little bit about finding each other. It sounds like Gordi chose you.
She definitely did. Everybody knows how much I love animals and dogs. When I went to The Sato Project, I literally was like, “Nobody let me adopt a dog today.”
Famous last words.
We walked in with a whole TV crew. So, of course, all the dogs start barking and going mad because all these strangers just walked in. And I didn’t really notice Gordi because she just looked at us, didn’t bark, and she wasn’t scared. She was just like, It doesn’t excite me that you’re here. And I thought that was so cute. So when we were doing the interview, I was like, “Is there a dog I can hold during the interview who’s kind of calm?” The organization’s founder is obviously very good at what she does and she cracked my energy. She picked Gordi, put her in my lap, and she sat perfectly for the entire interview. Like she’s been on TV her whole life.
And you couldn’t leave her?
When it was time to go, she put her paws in my t-shirt to say she wanted to stay with me. So I couldn’t put her down. It’s so funny because when I told this story to my mom, she was like, “They probably trained all the dogs to put their paws in your t-shirt.” And I was just like, Oh god, this is my dog. I had no intentions of getting a dog, but this dog spoke to me.
Why the name Gordi?
They had named Gordi already because she was the fattest dog in the shelter. They’re rescuing the dogs off the street, so it is pretty remarkable for one of them to be chubby. And so I kept her name Gordi because I just loved it.
People love her on social media. Does she get recognized? And is she your most popular Instagram content?
She is low key famous. A couple of times when I’ve been walking her down the street, people will be like, “Gordi!” But in terms of popularity, she’s pretty high up there. I have some legitimately famous friends, but she’s definitely in the running with them.
Who’s the most famous person that Gordi has met?
Gordi is a bit of a star stalker. I’m going to be honest. Like, if you’re in the room with all the writers, she’s sitting in Samantha Bee’s lap, every time. She’s very good friends with Robin Thede. Who else have you met, Gordi? She’s friends with Amber Ruffin.
If Gordi was a person, who do you think she would be?
She would be that friend that you could invite to any Hollywood event or whatever, because she’s always unimpressed. She’s nice. She’s polite. She’s a cool hang. Great to have around. But she’s never going to embarrass you in public because she is unimpressed with whoever is here.
Does she do any tricks?
You know those dogs on Instagram that push a button to say they want to go outside or whatever? I tried to get her to do that. She loves going outside — it’s her favorite activity. But she will look at the button, then look at you like, “You know what I want.” She’s a very good dog, but she just isn’t interested in performing for you. And I was like, all right, that’s fine.
Do you find yourself talking to her when you’re at home?
I talk to her, but I don’t do baby talk. My family doesn’t do baby talk...even to babies. We have the most well-spoken small children because we just talk to them the same way we talk to each other. So that’s also how we talk to the dogs — like, can you not? She understands sarcasm.
What about during the pandemic? Did that deepen your relationship?
At the beginning of the pandemic, when we were fully locked down, I took so many more walks because it was kind of the only activity to do, and I didn’t want to be too stuck in the house. It got to the point where she was like, No more walking; we’ve walked all we’re going to walk. I think she really enjoyed me being home and just getting to be close all day, and she likes watching me write. At the beginning of the pandemic I lived in this apartment complex. And since everyone was locked down, we had this big yard...
Like a Melrose Place courtyard?
Yeah! We really got to get to know our neighbors more, sitting in the courtyard, drinking wine with them, leaving the doors open. And she had another little doggy friend and they would just go back and forth between the apartments. So I think that was actually her dream.
Does she like music, or do you put the TV on for her or anything? Does she ever engage with that stuff?
Very rarely, but every now and then something will catch her attention. Weirdly, she watched all of Inventing Anna. She never watches TV, but Inventing Anna, she was taking notes.
Watch out. She’s going to scam you out of millions.
I mean, she already has. She is unemployed and she lives in my house for free.
Do you ever have dreams of opening a dog rescue since you adopted Gordi from one?
You know your dream for when you’re stupid rich, like so rich you can waste money? Mine is that I buy a huge house and staff it and just have dogs live there. So they’re not in a shelter; they’re living in a house. Elderly dogs, dogs who need medication, and there’s a full-time staff just to take care of them. And I can go visit whenever I feel like it. And just lay on the floor and get covered in dogs.
Where would the house be?
Gordi loves Ojai. She’s very bougie. She’s been to the Hamptons, but I think she prefers Ojai.
The comedian-actress talks about her twinning cats, taking cat naps, and...a new puppy?!
“We’re supposed to be quote-unquote scared of becoming a cat lady, but really what does that even mean? Being a strong independent person who loves cats? That sounds awesome.”
“Having dogs, rescue dogs, is not always convenient or comfortable — you have to get used to being uncomfortable. But it’s so worth it. The love is immeasurable.”
Marisa Meltzer has contributed to The New York Times, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and is the author of This Is Big: How the Women Who Founded Weight Watchers Changed the World (and Me). She lives in New York City with her dog Joan.