So this happened.
Just days after Deadline.com’s Nellie Andreeva posted a piece that seemed to attribute the number of Black actors snagging roles in Hollywood to an affirmative action quota of sorts (and simply put, not Black excellence), the site’s editor has issued an apology.
Deadline is sorry. They really are sorry.
My co-editor-in-chief Nellie Andreeva’s goal was to convey that there was such an uptick of TV pilot casting of people of color that it pinched white actors who’ve historically gotten most of the jobs, and to question if this could last if it was being treated as a fad,” editor Mike Fleming Jr. wrote.
“All this was undermined by that headline (which we changed after the fact) and a repetition of the word “ethnic” that came off cold and insensitive. The only appropriate way to view racial diversity in casting is to see it as a wonderful thing, and to hope that Hollywood continues to make room for people of color. The missteps were dealt with internally; we will do our best to make sure that kind of insensitivity doesn’t surface again here. As co-editors in chief, Nellie and I apologize deeply and sincerely to those who’ve been hurt by this. There is no excuse. It is important to us that Deadline readers know we understand why you felt betrayed, and that our hearts are heavy with regret. We will move forward determined to do better.”
That’s a much-needed apology that won’t do much to smooth over the damage, especially following this bit in the article “Pilots 2015: The Year of Ethnic Castings – About Time or Too Much of Good Thing?” that suggested “ethnic castings” may have gone too far.
Translation? There are too many Black people in the pot.
Take it away, Andreeva:
A lot of what is happening right now is long overdue. The TV and film superhero ranks have been overly white for too long, workplace shows should be diverse to reflect workplace in real America, and ethnic actors should get a chance to play more than the proverbial best friend or boss.
But, as is the case with any sea change, some suggest that the pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction. Instead of opening the field for actors of any race to compete for any role in a color-blind manner, there has been a significant number of parts designated as ethnic this year, making them off-limits for Caucasian actors, some agents signal. Many pilot characters this year were listed as open to all ethnicities, but when reps would call to inquire about an actor submission, they frequently have been told that only non-Caucasian actors would be considered. “Basically 50% of the roles in a pilot have to be ethnic, and the mandate goes all the way down to guest parts,” one talent representative said.
Interesting. Not only is it dismissive to suggest there are too many faces of color on television, Andreeva’s piece adds insult to injury, indicating that Hollywood is forcefully adding said faces to screens to avoid some sort of penalty. Forget the fact that America’s demographic is largely underrepresented in Hollywood and this “pendulum swing” is a natural response to the changing landscape. Or the fact that minorities are still underrepresented nearly 6 to 1 in broadcast television shows, even with the smashing success of hit shows like Empire, Scandal, and How To Get Away with Murder.
And speaking of which, it must be noted that Empire garnered an unprecedented 17 million viewers for their pearl-clutching finale. The FOX show actually broke a ratings record that stood for more than 23 years. That’s no hyperbole. If that’s not an indication that we are starving for more faces of color on our television screens, we don’t know what is.
But articles like this? Well, they’ll certainly play a role in how Hollywood views diversity. Take it from Jamil Smith, senior editor at The New Republic, who tweeted this:
What troubles me is the decision-makers in Hollywood who will read that @Deadline tripe about black actors in television and say, “Exactly.”
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) March 25, 2015
Or Jozen Cummings, a NYC-based writer and columnist who tweeted this valid point:
The main issue I have is that trend piece acts like there’s a reason we should be alarmed instead of pleased with this new direction. — Jozen C. (@jozenc) March 25, 2015
Of course, the problematic article doesn’t stop at suggesting there are too many Black people on television (now that’s a hyperbole, we’re talking maybe a total of four shows). The overuse of “ethnic,” which is clearly code for something else. The idea that White actors are now struggling because all the “ethnic” actors are stealing their roles. Overlooking the fact that White actors STILL MAKE UP 80 PERCENT OF NETWORK TELEVISION ROLES. Indicating that this uptick in “ethnic” casting is a “trend.” This line that suggests we’re just not as talented as White actors:
“Because of the sudden flood of roles for ethnic actors after years of suppressed opportunities for them, the talent pool of experienced minority performers — especially in the younger range — is pretty limited.”
Yes, that happened too. We really shouldn’t respond. We really should just let Shonda Rhimes do it for us:
1st Reaction:: HELL NO. Lemme take off my earrings, somebody hold my purse! 2nd Reaction: Article is so ignorant I can’t even be bothered. — shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) March 25, 2015
But we did. Check out the video above to see our initial reaction to Deadline’s tone-deaf article, delivered by GlobalGrind and NewsOne editor Christina Coleman in The Retweet.
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