billionsShowtime Networks president David Nevins, who spent a year in Scotland as a student a while back, made an Edinburgh audience very happy this afternoon when he praised the excellence of British actors. “Is dipping into the UK talent pool a must?” Nevins was asked. “Well, yeah,” he answered. Then, his interviewer added, “Or is it just that it’s the best?” Nevins paused for a moment, then said, “Honestly, kinda.” Showtime has a vast roster of UK talent in its dramas including Damian Lewis, Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, and Simon Russell Beale.

Nevins continued, “There are times when I’m dying to hire an American actor, but there’s a great talent pool, great training of actors here with the ability to do flawless American accents.”

A funny thing, Nevins said, was casting Damian Lewis in Billions, the network’s upcoming financial drama. Lewis, he recounted, felt it was too soon after Homeland to do another American TV show. “And I said, ‘Yeah, it’s too soon after Homeland for me to hire you. It feels like a little bit of a failure of creativity.’… It was that weird flirtation where we were both trying to reject each other, but you knew where it was going to end up,” he laughed.

Turning to issues of gender, Nevins said Showtime has done “very well with gender diversity” at about 50/50 female to male showrunners.

But, it’s in terms of reflecting the racial diversity of America where there are still issues. “We’ve got a lot of work to do… We have had some successes and some failures. That is definitely on our agenda.”

Nevins elaborated that Showtime is in about a quarter of U.S. homes and “over-indexes Latino and African American. So, that’s an important part of our audience base.”

Showtime is currently piloting a Chicago-set drama from Lena Waithe, Common, Aaron Kaplan and Clark Johnson. The untitled project is the coming-of-age story of a young African-American male outside Chicago which Nevins said today has “a lot of promise.”