The Casting Society of America will host a virtual town hall on February 1 and a three-day online open call for for Black actors from Feb. 19-21. Both events are part of CSA’s Black Actors Initiative, which is designed to effect real change in how actors in historically underrepresented communities are afforded access to job opportunities.
The town hall will include an in-depth discussion “to forge actionable changes in the representation of these actors,” CSA said. Actors who identify as Black are invited to attend, as are all casting professionals — casting directors, associates and assistants — talent agents and talent managers. The event will be moderated by casting director Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd and actor Carla Renata. Panelists will include:
• Josiah Akinyele (talent agent)
• Charlton Blackburne (manager)
• Yvette Nicole Brown (actor)
• Kim Coleman (casting director)
• Keith David (actor)
• Leah Daniels-Butler (casting director)
• Fatmata Kamara (talent agent)
• Anthony LeBlanc (producer/director)
• Harold Lewter (manager)
• Destiny Lilly (casting director)
• Ryan Lucas (talent agent)
• Tina Lifford (actor)
• Ashleigh Murray (actor)
• Brian Michael Smith (actor)
• Tatiana Wechsler (actor)
Later in Black History month, the three-day open call will provide opportunities for professionally trained union and non-union Black actors to meet and read with CSA members.
To register for the Town Hall, click here.
To register for the Open Call, click here.
“This moment demands we examine not only the principles of diversity, belonging, equity, inclusion but also the processes and framework that have supported the present systems that uphold anti-Blackness,” said Caroline Liem, CSA’s VP Advocacy. “While we all desire real change, we can only get there together. Daring to speak from a place of vulnerability, frankness, and readiness is where our dynamic panel will help to lead us. Listening from a place of openness, a desire to implement actionable goals to find a better way to work with our Black artistic communities, is how we expedite the change we need to achieve a more equitable industry.”
Said Zora DeHorter, CSA’s VP Communications. “As a woman, a Black woman, I have dealt with my share of assumptions and presumptions – at times an unnecessary burden to carry. We are creating an open, safe space to have dialogues about how to affect changes in our hiring practices and workplace practices. This initiative is about how we, as BIPOC artists, can effectively and positively move forward to a better, enlightened, hopeful future.”
Talent manager Charlton Blackburne said: “My constant goal and priority as a talent manager has always been to advance a TV and film casting narrative that is representationally and ideologically inclusive. Representing actors of color has always been extremely important, providing the entertainment community the opportunity to see actors of color for roles that were not traditionally available. TV and film have a powerful influence on how we see each other. I am committed to working with actors that are under-represented in real life until life on-screen truly mirrors our changing and diverse society.”
Added talent manager Harold Lewter. “When we talk about equity, we are not talking about wealth or equality; we are talking about giving Black actors what they need to have extraordinary careers. For far too long, the entertainment industry has relied on structural systems designed to keep Black actors in a box, relegated to roles deemed acceptable by societal constructs. I am happy that the CSA is making space for us to have conversations about what that means and how we go about making actionable changes that can be implemented today and not five years from now when the merry-go-round has arrived at this point once again.”
Said actor Ashleigh Murray: “It goes without saying how humbly honored I am for the opportunity to share my budding experience in the entertainment industry. CSA is and always has been an integral part of meaningful and impactful representation in Hollywood. Creating space for broader understanding through open dialogue cultivates increased awareness of the diverse life experiences actors bring. Panels like this promote the intervention of implicit bias and allows for the creation of roles and artistry that authentically represent humanity. Change, like life, is constant and the work must be done. I’m a woman with an open heart and a story to tell. I’m happy to be a part of the conversation.”
Actor Brian Michael Smith said: “I deeply appreciate the CSA and its initiatives to build equity in the industry by giving a platform to marginalized artists and listening to our concerns, and collaborating with us for impactful solutions. I’m honored to be a part of this panel, to offer insights from my experiences as a Black actor in Hollywood, celebrate the progress we’ve made, and address the issues that still remain as we push forward to true equity and authentic representation in the entertainment community.”
And producer-director Anthony LeBlanc added, “Not only is this work worth it, but there’s a possibility of seeing the change that you are working for while you can still experience it.”
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