How J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot Is Bringing More Diversity to Hollywood

Austin Hargrave
J.J. Abrams

"The Oscars controversy was a wake-up call," says the director, whose company has asked agents to include women and minorities on their list of submissions for acting and writing jobs.

When J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released in December, many fans noted its diverse cast, which included a strong female lead in Daisy Ridley and a black stormtrooper, played by John Boyega. In the light of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, Abrams' production banner Bad Robot has created a new policy to encourage more diversity in Hollywood.

The company has teamed with its agency, CAA, and studio partners (Warner Bros. and Paramount) to require that women and minorities are submitted for writing, directing and acting jobs for the company in proportion to their representation in the U.S. population.

"We’ve been working to improve our internal hiring practices for a while, but the Oscars controversy was a wake-up call to examine our role in expanding opportunities internally at Bad Robot and externally with our content and partners," says Abrams, who produces the Star Wars and Star Trek movie franchises along with the TV series Person of Interest and Hulu's miniseries 11.22.63.

Abrams says his company decided to create the policy to encourage more diversity in Bad Robot's projects at the end of January (the #OscarsSoWhite controversy sparked after the nominees were announced on Jan. 14.)

"We're working to find a rich pool of representative, kick-ass talent and give them the opportunity they deserve and we can all benefit from," he says. "It’s good for audiences and it’s good for the bottom line."

Abrams previously spoke out about the need for diversity in film at Comic-Con 2015, telling the Hall H audience: "I think it's important people see themselves represented in film," Abrams said. "I think it's not a small thing."

Abrams' new policy, which is similar to the one enacted by Ryan Murphy's goals with his TV production company, is just one of a handful of notable movements in development towards more diversity. A slew of diverse stories have recently gained momentum, including newly announced projects include the young Barack Obama movie Barry and Disney's immigrant story Dr. Q