With all of CBS’ new shows premiering this fall having white male leads, CBS Entertainment President Glenn Geller took the heat today from the TCA press corps for under-delivering in regards to the network’s diversity representation on-camera. One reporter mentioned how fast FX chief John Landgraf responded when he was first awakened to the stat that his network possessed one of the lowest diversity ratios per the Directors Guild. In the case, of CBS, they’ve had years to fix their diversity issues.
Responded Geller today, “We’re mindful at CBS about how important inclusion is, and we need to do better. In terms of leads, we’re definitely less diverse this year than last, but in our ensemble diversity, we’re more diverse than last year. I think that’s our commitment to diversity, it’s ongoing.”
Geller pointed out the casting of Laverne Cox in Doubt as a huge leap for the network when it comes to LGBT casting. “It’s historic, she’s the first transgender to play (on TV).”
The CBS executive named a slew of examples of where the network was making strides with diverse casts and characters: Justin Cornwell on the upcoming Training Day, as well as LGBT characters on Bull, The Great Indoors, the second season of Code Black and NCIS: New Orleans.
Geller further defended the network’s record, noting that of the 16 new series regulars added to CBS series since the May upfronts, 11 are diverse. While they are not leads, Geller used the stat to underline the progress the network is making.
“We also need to look behind the camera as well. We haven’t finished filling all of our director slots,” said the CBS chief. Geller mentioned that CBS hosted a breakfast back in mid-March, whereby 15 directors who were women and people of color were invited. Some were invited through CBS’s diversity program and others chosen by those who run it,. They were paired with CBS executives for seven-minute rotating chats. The end-game here: to diversify CBS and CW’s director roster. One particular female director coming out of that breakfast booked gigs on Life in Pieces and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
“We’re getting better and better in our director ranks; over half of our directors are diverse on Madam Secretary and The Odd Couple,” continued Geller.
When asked why CBS’ showrunners aren’t broadly represented, with none of the showrunners on new CBS series being a person of color, Geller answered, “Sometimes our showrunners are diverse, sometimes they’re not diverse. We picked up the best shows from the pilots we made.”
Geller also mentioned that CBS has a college program ‘CBS on Tour’ via which they speak with college students about opportunities in the TV industry. Geller pointed to the program as “diversity fostering more diversity.”