During the CBS executive sessions at the two 2016 TCA press tours, CBS entertainment president Glenn Geller was pressed by critics about the lack of diversity on the network. “We need to do better,” Geller admitted in August when he presented a fall schedule that featured five new series, all with white male leads and showrunners.
This time around, Geller was one of the broadcast toppers who opted not to do an executive session. In a brief interview with Deadline at TCA, he was asked to reflect on the network’s efforts to make it more inclusive.
“I think we are making some really nice strides in development,” he said, noting CBS’ new drama diversity casting initiative, which was completed last month. “Hopefully we can use those screen tests to cast pilot and returning series, certainly pilots first.” (CBS also has a long-standing comedy diversity showcase.)
Additionally, “we have a really nice broad swath of development where diversity is organic to what the development is and will be making those decisions shorty,” Geller said. He is referring the the network’s pending comedy and drama pilot orders for next season.
The midseason slate presented by CBS today was also far more diverse than the fall one, with two of the three new series featuring a black lead, comedy Superior Donuts (Jermaine Fowler), which was re-piloted after the upfronts and ordered to series in the fall, and drama Training Day (Justin Cornwell), while the third, drama Doubt, features the first transgender series regular cast member, Laverne Cox.
We will see if the trend carries over to pilot pickups in the next month and expands in CBS’ series orders for next season at the upfronts.