Duana’s (snarky screenwriter) take
Oh NO, you guys, terrible news!
It seems that Hollywood has gotten a clue, based on how Shondaland kills everything in its path on Thursday nights, how well Jane The Virgin has done, and how Empire has JUGGERNAUTED its way through season one. Hollywood has decided that this pilot season, they should be looking for diversity. Apparently audiences like seeing themselves reflected onscreen.
But woe are talent agents, according to this Deadline Article that is causing mass furor, because they’re not even allowed to submit Caucasian actors for the parts! The outrage!
Here’s how it goes on a show when you’re creating characters. You’re looking for types who will mix it up. “She lives in a dreamworld. Now we need someone who’s going to get in her face.” Or “They’re like brothers, even though they’re so different. One is logical and the other is ridiculous.” There is zero reason why race comes into it at all. Not at that point. Now I’m not trying to be disingenuous. If you’re writing Fresh Off The Boat, every character is considered carefully. Who are the outside characters to Eddie and his family? If you’re writing on Orange Is The New Black, then hells yes, you want to know which ‘faction’ the character fits into.
But if you’re writing a show about a guy looking for love, nobody is talking about race at the beginning. You only want people who are going to cause friction onscreen. And then you submit the casting breakdown, and it says “Any Ethnicity”. And the links full of actors come back. 90% of the time, 95% of them are white. If there is an actor who is black or Asian or South Asian, they stand out, you realize. It becomes noticeable. “Choose one of all of these faces that look similar, or…go another way.”
The other thing is, the same actors get submitted all the time. “Oh, that guy read for this. Oh, I saw that girl on this other show.” You get bored, and the reason you keep seeing that one girl pop up is because she’s the best of the five foot three brunettes she auditions with every time.
Whereas if you submit a casting call specifying “Asian” or “Indian”, suddenly all these actors show up that you’ve never heard of. It’s amazing, because clearly they’re there and they have the resumes required. But they’re not being seen otherwise, except as ‘clerk’ or ‘cop #2’ or ‘nurse’ – parts that don’t count because the character has no name.
I do not feel sorry for any agent who suddenly doesn’t have half his roster working because he doesn’t have a diverse roster. I further don’t feel that we’re going to see all the Caucasian actors out of work, because I don’t buy it for a second, and because any sitcom that isn’t notably about a family of colour will be assumed to be a white family, any lawyer in a law show that isn’t specified as being diverse won’t be, and only crowd scenes full of background actors look the way the world you look around actually does.
This is a good thing. I agree with Sarah, Deadline is trolling. I don’t know what will make it on the air in the fall but at least right now, people are doing something different.