Patriarch of the family. A rather over-dramatic man who will make any issue about race.
- Abusive Parents: While he generally averts (and in the best of times reverses) this trope with most of his kids, he frequently outright bullies Junior, which has led to his oldest son developing a sizable chip in his shoulder and have the poorest relationship with him.
- Aesop Amnesia: No matter how many times he learns he shouldn't bully Junior, or that his mother isn't the saint he's convinced himself she is, it never seems to sink in.
- Big Eater: Food is one of his greatest pleasures in life, so much so that it was all he took with him when he was forced to evacuate his office. He's quite overweight as a result, and Bow notes he has lots of health issues such as his heart stopping twice a night. It is implied that his mother spoiled him with large bounties of unhealthy foods high in calories and fat since his childhood.
- Bumbling Dad: Tries his best to be an attentive, balanced father, but has a terrible tendency of taking well-intentioned efforts to support his kids way too far.
- Character Narrator: Almost every episode is narrated by him. He occasionally takes on qualities of an Unreliable Narrator in order to make himself look better in situations where he's clearly in the wrong, but this is always Played for Laughs.
- Everything Is Racist: Dre tends to seek out racism within every situation he finds himself in. While his suspicions are frequently proven right, he has a bad habit of attempting to resolve them in the worst ways possible, and annoys friends and family alike with his constant railroading of conversations into being about race.
- The Fashionista: A rare male example. He has an obsession with sneakers and enjoys color-coordinating his outfits to look as stylish as possible.
- Freudian Excuse: He had an extremely rough upbringing, which causes him to occasionally coddle his kids in an effort to make sure that they don't suffer like he did. At the same time, his fear of his kids becoming too pampered and taking the privileges that he worked his whole life to get for them for granted can occasionally cause him to be unnecessarily hard on them. His blind devotion to his mother can also be explained by the fact that, as flawed as she is, she always worked extremely hard to support and take care of him growing up.
- Happily Married: To Bow. While they have their rough patches here and there, they're regularly shown to be a perfect match for each other and always manage to overcome whatever problems they face in their relationship.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: His father bullied him, his mother was overbearing, and his family barely had the money to scrape out a living. Played with somewhat, as Dre's tough childhood is played as a serious Freudian Excuse for his behavior almost as often as it's Played for Laughs.
- It's All About Me: While he loves his family, he admits that he tends to put his own interests above theirs.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's selfish, stingy and a bit of a bumbler, but Dre has a strong desire to make sure that he can provide his family with as fulfilling and happy lives as he possibly can.
- Large Ham: Has an extremely theatrical and lyrical way of speaking, which makes most of his lines rather hammy.
- Let's Get Dangerous!: Dre almost always becomes substantially more competent and insightful when the situation demands him to, dropping any traces of being a Bumbling Dad.
- Malcolm Xerox: In his younger years.College!Dre: Peace God. I go by the title Yusef Supreme Justice Allah. And I want to first say that the Black man is the true Asiatic Nubian. I speak to the masses of those who are deaf, dumb, and blind to knowledge of self and wisdom.
Present!Dre: ...College was a very confusing time for me.
- Manchild: Downplayed but still very present. Dre is a devoted Momma's Boy who has a tendency to throw hissy fits when he doesn't get his way. He's described as a "manbaby" at multiple points.
- Momma's Boy: He places Ruby on a pedestal, to the point of completely overlooking her very hostile treatment of Bow.
- Not so Above It All: As vigilant about racism as he is, it's occasionally shown that he's not without his own prejudices. In "Black Like Us", Bow and Junior both call him out for his colorist tendencies, which include constantly making jokes about the two of them having lighter skin tones than the rest of the family and suggesting they're not "as black" as the others.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Almost never referred to as Andre.
- Only Sane Employee: His (frequently justified) habit of tying everything back to racism notwithstanding, he is by far the least insane person at his workplace.
- Overprotective Dad: Often becomes passionate about fighting for his children even when his children vehemently don't want him to.
- Parental Favoritism: Very openly considers Zoey to be the child that he is closest to and most proud of. Jack is a distant second, as, while they don't really connect all that much, he can at least play sports well.
- Self-Made Man: Worked his way up from poverty to modest wealth through hard work and determination.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Absolutely hates Johan's guts, and isn't shy about telling him it to his face, but their relationship is mostly harmless.
- Soapbox Sadie: His tendency to constantly speak out against things that he perceives as injustices frequently annoys his co-workers and, to a lesser extent, his own family. Subverted to a degree, as while he's frequently shown to be overzealous, he's also generally right to complain.
- Token Minority: Enforced in his workplace, where he is in charge of the "urban" department. Subverted somewhat in practice, as both Charlie and Daphne are regulars in boardroom meetings.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: A downplayed example. While Dre himself is far from ugly, jokes are frequently made about how Rainbow is completely out of his league.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Was one growing up, and still shows traces of it as an adult.
- What Does She See in Him?: Dre's own children occasionally wonder why their mom decided to marry him. The show makes it clear that the two have excellent chemistry with each other that hasn't diminished since when they first met.
- Why Couldn't You Be Different?: He's very disappointed that Junior has grown into a clumsy nerd rather than the sporty jock he wanted him to be.
Dre's wife. A doctor and much less uptight. But also a complete dork.
- The Ace: A light example, but it's hard to argue that Rainbow doesn't have it all together, considering that she's a beautiful and successful doctor who is also a Happily Married mother of five that is generally significantly more competent and rational than her husband is. Her status as this is that major source of her Pride, as it causes her to completely overlook when she actually makes mistakes or is in the wrong.
- Ambiguously Brown: May or may not have taken a scholarship intended for Pacific Islanders.Rainbow: I can easily pass for a Samoan.
- Ambiguously Jewish: Although never specified, Bow and her siblings are all played by actors who are notable for being Black and Jewish.
- Break the Haughty: Episodes frequently feature her realizing that she isn't the perfect "super mom" that she occasionally prides herself for being.
- Career Versus Family: A recurring topic of contention for her. Rainbow loves being a doctor just as much as she loves being a mom, and the pressure society places on her to give up one for the other regularly frustrates her.
- Cannot Tell a Joke: A Running Gag has her attempts at humor always falling completely flat.
- Closer to Earth: Downplayed compared to most TV moms. While Rainbow is far from infallible as a parent and spouse, she's a hell of a lot better at it than Dre is.
- Granola Girl: Downplayed. Her parents were hippies, and she herself has retained traces of their upbringing.
- Half-Breed Discrimination: Discussed. Being biracial caused her to feel like an outsider no matter where she was for most of her life, causing her to lean hard into the stereotypes of a Valley Girl and a Sassy Black Woman in high school and college, respectively, in order to avoid being ostracized by her peers.
- Happily Married: To Dre. While they have their rough patches here and there, they're regularly shown to be a perfect match for each other and always manage to overcome whatever problems they face in their relationship.
- Hippie Name: She was raised in a hippie commune and was given the name Rainbow. She's usually called Bow for short. Her younger brother Johan has a normal name, but their youngest sister is named Santamonica.
- Hippie Parents: Her parents live in a van, for starters. One that's powered by human feces. Bow herself has shades of this, being a bit more lenient and looser in her parenting style than Dre is.
- Lust Object: Charlie frequently voices his desire to see her in a swimsuit.
- Mama Bear: Loses her usual cool when she sees her children being treated unfairly in front of her.
- The Medic: She works as a doctor.
- Only Sane Woman: While Bow's ego has a habit of clouding her judgement of her own actions, she just as frequently serves as a voice of reason to the rest of her family.
- Overprotective Mom: Much more in favor of risking pampering her children for the sake of their protection than Dre is.
- Pride: Her biggest flaw. While Rainbow is genuinely a well-rounded and competent person, her belief that she is the perfect mother and wife often causes her to overlook when she is in the wrong.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: With Ruby. To say their relationship is rocky would be a severe understatement.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Downplayed. While Dre is hardly ugly, Bow is still regularly said to be way out of his league looks-wise.
- Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Inexplicably goes from working in the ER, to being a surgeon, to an anesthesiologist.
The oldest Johnson child. The most normal one out of the bunch.
- Aloof Big Sister: Generally fairly distant from her siblings, particularly Junior, who she avoids associating with at all costs when at school. She doesn't do it out of any kind of dislike, however, and is shown to be a caring and helpful sister when they need her.
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: Played with. While she engages in much of the behavior regularly associated with this trope (throwing/going to Wild Teen Parties, dating questionable boys, etc.), she's also frequently shown to be much more responsible than her parents give her credit for.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Downplayed. She does well in school, but isn't the outstanding honor student that Junior is and does almost no extracurricular activities. Despite this, she's shown to arguably be the smartest person in her family time and time again.
- Cool Big Sis: Proves herself to be very capable of assuming this role when her siblings need her, most notably when Diane had her first period, where she ended up being much better at discussing it with her than Rainbow herself was.
- Daddy's Girl: Dre openly considers her to be his favorite, and the two are generally shown to be very close.
- Deadpan Snarker: Most of her lines are droll quips at her family's expense.
- The Ditz: Subverted; with her very teen interests and a relaxed aloof attitude, she gives off the vibe of a ditz but repeatedly is revealed to be aware and mostly on top of everything. It somehow still took Rainbow till Zoey's senior year to realize she has depth.
- The Fashionista: Has an interest and talent in design.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Played with in terms of her relationship with Junior. While she's the indifferent, popularity-obsessed sibling, she is also regularly shown to be much more reliable, intelligent and competent than people give her credit for, while Junior tends to flounder when under pressure.
- Hidden Depths: Beneath her uncaring exterior lies an extremely capable and reliable person.
- Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Her voice needs to be heavily auto-tuned in order to sound even remotely decent while singing.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Can be very mean and dismissive towards the rest of her family, but she loves them all deep down.
- Mellow Fellow: A female example. Her mood rarely rises beyond an indifferent calm.
- Phoneaholic Teenager: Although downplayed in later seasons.
- The Reliable One: A trait which is frequently veiled by her indifferent attitude. Zoey is genuinely a very intelligent, capable and independent person who is fully capable of making wise decisions for both herself and her siblings when her parents cannot. In season 2's "The Leftovers", she is ultimately chosen as the legal guardian for the kids were something to happen to Bow and Dre, even over the kids' grandparents/Bow and Dre's own parents.
- Only Sane Man: Much more level-headed than her parents and siblings.
- Out of Focus: Leaves for college in season 4. Subverted in that in doing so she received her own spin-off in the form of grownish.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: With Junior. She's cool, calm and aloof while he's dorky, excitable and prone to getting caught up in the little things.
- Smarter Than You Look: Countless episodes focus on her parents worrying about her behavior only to realize that she's much more on top of her life than they give her credit for.
The oldest son and exact opposite of his dad. Meek, spacey and a gigantic nerd.
- Black and Nerdy: Obsessed with practically every nerdy interest under the sun.
- Breakout Character: He is easily one of if not the most popular characters in the show. Especially the favorite to the producers as they wanted to make a spinoff starring him.
- Butt-Monkey: The biggest one in the family. Even Rainbow occasionally gets in digs at him.
- Calling the Old Man Out: As the series goes on, he gets more comfortable standing up to Dre.
- Character Development: Steadily becomes a more respected and capable person as the series goes on, becoming his student body president, getting a girlfriend, and stepping up as The Reliable One after Zoey leaves for college. He also gets more willing to call Dre on his crap.
- Dumbass Teenage Son: Different from most examples as he's actually an academically-gifted nerd, but he's still an awkward, horny and hopelessly naive Cloudcuckoolander that the rest of the family tends to look down on.
- Extraverted Nerd: In spite of his supreme nerdiness, he is actually quite outgoing, if incredibly awkward.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Played with in his relationship with Zoey. While Junior is the more studious and authority-respecting of the two, he also tends to crack under pressure where Zoey remains levelheaded. After Zoey leaves for college, Junior begins to step up his game and become more reliable, though he's still pretty bad under pressure.
- Genius Ditz: He's a goofball with No Social Skills and the mind of a little kid most of the time, but he's an excellent student and can be pretty insightful when he wants to be.
- Hormone-Addled Teenager: Jokes are occasionally made about his chronic horniness.
- Manchild: Acts more like a gradeschooler than a college-bound 17-year-old.
- Mirror Character: He's in the middle of a Hilariously Abusive Childhood with a father that mocks him and a mother who he is blindly devoted to, regardless of whether or not she's in the right, not entirely unlike Dre's life growing up. He works at his father's ad job in the later seasons.
- Momma's Boy: As if to compensate for his rocky relationship with Dre, he tends to cling to Bow. While Bow is generally happy to accommodate him, even she can find the attention he gives her to be a bit much.
- Nerds Speak Klingon: Speaks Dothraki.
- New Transfer Student: After getting wrongfully expelled from his private school in season 4 (it's a long story), he begins enrolling in public school. Even after he's allowed back at his old school, he continues to attend public school due to feeling more accepted there.
- Nice Guy: Generally a well-meaning and friendly guy.
- No-Respect Guy: Picking on him seems to be fair game for everyone in the family.
- One Head Taller: Puberty hit him like a ton of bricks later in the show, where he easily outsizes his dad in height.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Always referred to as Junior.
- The Reliable One: After Zoey leaves for college, Junior begins to take on a much more active role in taking care of his younger siblings while Rainbow is busy with work.
- Sad Clown: His status as The Unfavorite "Well Done, Son" Guy is generally played for laughs, but the show occasionally goes into detail about just how hard he has it as a result.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: With Zoey. He's a goofy, excitable nerd while she's calm, aloof and very popular.
- The Unfavorite: Dre is openly disappointed in him and often bullies him as a result, his siblings generally think of him as a loser. Though this started to stop later seasons as Dre becomes more proud of him.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Dre's lack of respect for him and his desperate attempts to win his approval are a defining part of his character.
The male half of the twins. A bit of a doofus.
The female half of the twins. An unusually scary child.
- Embarrassing Nickname: "Gurkel" (Girl Urkel)
Dre's dad. An mildly amoral man who crashes in the guest house.
- Insane Troll Logic: got fired from a job for stealing mattresses, which he justified by stating it was slavery reparations. When told that the store never owed him reparations, he said "Not after I took the mattresses!"
- Obnoxious In-Laws: To a lesser extent, while he and Bow clash on their opinions between what is old-fashioned or modern, he does respect her more than Ruby does and finds her to be good for Dre.
Dre's mom. A Jesus freak with some less than Christian habits.
- The Fundamentalist: She has an intense devotion to her religion, is pretty close-minded, and invokes the name of God despite not being a particularly Christian person.
- Heteronormative Crusader: To the extent that she didn't let Dre eat bananas growing up. She does accept Rhonda when she is outed, though it takes her a little while.
- Hidden Depths: Used to live in New York and was a backup singer for Bette Middler, even appearing in the movie Beaches.
- It's All About Me: Her reactions to things often involve how they would affect her, she freaked out when the kids started ordering out or preparing their own food rather than eating her own food.
- Mad Bomber: She once sunk Pop's houseboat with a bundle of dynamite.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: She's a racist to Mexicans and homophobic. She is also dismissive of Bow for being half-black. One conversation with Bow reveals that she prefers her doctors to be White Jewish Males. It was also revealed she stolen a television from Mason's Korean grandmother during the LA riots.
- Ghetto Name: Implied that she was originally called D'Alicia.Alicia: Don't be acting like there's not a glass ceiling for women with apostrophes in their name.
- Where Did We Go Wrong?: Averted. She is proud of all her children, even if 2 out of 3 of them aren't as conventionally successful as Wife, Mother, and Doctor Bow.
- Race Fetish: His license plate reads BLKWYF.
- Attention Whore: Santamonica loves being the center of attention. When Johan breaks his arm and starts getting more attention than her, she acts out, even pulling on the fire alarm at school to get others to notice her.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Santa Monica is the former, while Bow is the latter.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: She is sweet and her Mother notes her as being devoted to her father and teaching her aging parents how to use technology and social media.
Stevens & Lido
- Breakout Character: Originally a recurring character that mostly appeared at Dres workplace and soon with popularity had simultaneously became a main character in this show and its spinoff Grownish.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Despite being an adman who does not know what Microsoft is, he has the highest account retention in the company.
- Cosmic Plaything: Nothing ever goes right for him and nobody likes him, from his coworkers to his dates to his family.
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: To Dre and Charlie's annoyance.
- Old Money: Mayflower old.
- Unfortunate Names: His surname is pronounced exactly like "Open Hole". He maintains there is a difference.
Co-founder of Stevens & Lido and Dre's first boss in the show.
- Gender-Blender Name: It takes a while for his employees to learn his first name is "Leslie". When they do, there's some laughter over it.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Stevens starts out seeming mostly competent but as time goes on he seems to achieve less and less in the office, especially once Daphne comes into the picture.
Ex-wife of Lido, Stevens & Lido's co-founder. Takes his name and share of the company in the divorce, and owns a controlling interest in the company.
- Determinator: Daphne is so committed to being on top of every situation that when proven wrong she will suddenly take up the other side of the argument and act like the other person was arguing her wrong point of view the whole time.
Mr. Stevens' son hired through nepotism. An incredibly amoral man who has almost certainly killed multiple people.
- Daddy's Little Villain: Rare male example. His father protects him from the consequences of all his actions and doesn't try to get him to stop so much as be smarter about hiding them.
- The Sociopath: Connor does not go to great lengths to hide the many crimes he's committed and never seems to regret it for a moment.