Following allegations from actress Rachel Adedeji about the treatment of black cast members on Hollyoaks, Vas J Morgan has raised questions about his treatment on ITV scripted reality show The Only Way Is Essex.
In an Instagram post, Morgan accused the show of “systematic racism,” highlighting how he was treated differently to white cast members and pointing out that he has been TOWIE‘s only regular black male cast member in 10 years.
He said: “While I have always been proud to be one of the only black and gay reality TV stars on British television, I have often felt conflicted over the way I was treated and the way I was portrayed.
“During the four years I filmed the show, I was almost never allowed to show any sides of my personality that wasn’t angry, aggressive or negative… I was consistently put into situations that perpetuated the same racial stereotype that has been used to oppress and control black people.”
Morgan said that he heard racist language “countless” times and, even though it was not directed at him, he said it “doesn’t make it less painful.” He added that he was a “token representation of minority” and his story arc was not developed in the same way as white colleagues. When he came out on TV, Morgan said he was not supported by producers and was not offered guidance when struggling with depression and substance abuse.
“The experiences I had on the show are part of the systematic racism that for the first time has had a spotlight put on it on a global scale,” he said, following the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. “This systematic discrimination starts from the top down. From leadership positions within the network, to the writers’ room, to our day to day producers.”
A TOWIE spokeswoman said: “We are concerned to have read Vas’s recent comments about TOWIE, and got in touch with him yesterday evening in the hope we can discuss the issues he’s raised at his earliest convenience.”
Lime Pictures is currently investigating Adedeji’s claims and has promised to do better. It has drawn up an action plan to tackle the questions raised about Hollyoaks, which includes investigating specific concerns, working with unconscious bias trainers, offering mentoring and creating more opportunities for BAME writers and directors.