Unlike last summer when then CBS Entertainment President Glenn Geller took the heat from the TCA press corps for the network’s lack of diversity at the time, TBS and TNT took the dais at TCA this morning with their panel “Leading Women of Comedy and Drama” to show what strides the basic cable network has been making with women and ethnic groups behind and in front of the camera.
In the wake of Wonder Woman‘s near $400M success at the domestic box office fueled by a female moviegoer fanbase, much has been written about the next explosion of movies with female leads. TNT and TBS are currently leaving their mark with provocative, raw femme-led TV series including Animal Kingdom, Claws, Good Behavior, Search Party and Angie Tribeca to name a few.
Despite the network’s footprint in creating stories for a wide array of audiences, Sarah Aubrey, EVP of original programming at TNT exclaimed that there’s more work to be done, and she presented some unflattering industry stats: Male showrunners continue to outnumber females 3 to 1, women only have a third of all speaking roles on TV and even smaller percent writing and directing. In addition, only 19% of all broadcast shows have no African American speaking roles.
“The world is so much bigger than black and white women; there’s a number of women whose stories aren’t being told. We still have a way to go, ” said Niecy Nash, the star of Claws.
“I started in this business 20 years ago, and when I come on a set (nowadays), it doesn’t look like it did back then,” said Niece Nash, the star of Claws about the progress that’s been made on productions; they’re not just simply made-up of Caucasian men.
As an Iranian-American Saturday Night Live alum Nasim Pedrad who co-stars on the second season of TBS’ People of Earth as an eager female FBI agent, took her career into her own hands rather than be pigeonholed by the roles that came her way. Fourteen years ago, out of theater school, Pedrad described how she read for narrow roles like ‘wife of a terrorist’ . “I started to write to power myself to tell stories that I wanted to tell rather than feel stagnate, waiting for the auditions to come around for roles that weren’t of interest to me,” said Pedrad.
Another big difference, of course, in spotlighting content for a wide array of demos is getting a woman’s voice heard. “If you have eight guys in a writer’s room, and there’s a couple of women in there, it makes for varied content,” said Pedrad while adding, “I’ve worked for a few men who are feminists. They’re our allies.”
Aubrey expounded on how getting a bad girl show like Michelle Dockery’s Good Behavior on the air years ago on basic cable would have been a challenge. “She’s a con woman who has had ups and downs. Five years ago, the question (in development meetings) would have been ‘Is she likeable?’A lot of safety guards would be put up on what she could and could not do.”
“Ten years ago, these stories wouldn’t be told,” said Janine Sherman Barrios, the EP of Claws regarding TBS and TNT’s lineup, “What you’re seeing is an inclusive environment.”
Also sitting on today’s panel were Dockery, Alia Shawcat, star and producer of Search Party; Megan Martin, co-EP and writer on Animal Kingdom, and Will star Olivia DeJonge.