Diversity is no doubt one of the industry’s hottest topics, and panelists today at a TCA session devoted to the subject had much to say.
The group, introduced by filmmaker and El Rey Network founder Robert Rodriguez, included WGN America’s Underground executive producer Anthony Hemingway and star Jurnee Smollett-Bell; TV One exec D’Angela Proctor and the network’s Ringside director-writer Russ Parr; El Rey network exec Theresa Vargas Wyatt and From Dusk Till Dawn showrunner Carlos Coto; and Survivor’s Remorse director Victoria Mahoney and co-star Tichina Arnold.
Even with the avail of more platforms, Hemingway admitted it hasn’t made the pitching process easier. “Networks are understanding that we have a voice and want to be included,” he said. “The [many] platforms have created more opportunities, but it’s still a challenge. We’re just continuing to preserve which is what we are built to do” and “we won’t quit.”
Many panelist echoed similar sentiments and suggested a proactive approach in prompting change. On the topic of awards, specifically the #OscarsSoWhite movement, Vargas Wyatt said she met with members of the Academy and submitted minorities for consideration. “You have to be part of the solution,” she advised, adding, “It’s our responsibility to pull people up with you.”
Mahoney, part of a small group of female directors of color, shared that she was hired when creator Mike O’Malley went on Twitter and asked where the female directors of color were because “he couldn’t find anyone from the agencies.”
“What my job is, is to move that line in the sand,” she said. “It’s exhausting and boring but we are built for it.”
Said Arnold: “I thank God for social media… I think social media is one of the reasons why we’re all here onstage because social media has forced show business to listen and pay attention to so many types of individuals out there.”
So, in terms of representation on screen, what do the panelist want to see going forward?
“I want to see a black female superhero,” said Arnold (though she later acknowledged the recent announcement of a black woman, Riri Williams, as Marvel’s new Iron Man). If it were up to Coto? “I want to make a Latino show without the word cartel in it.”