SAG-AFTRA President on Academy Diversity Changes: It's a "Good Start"

Courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.

"They’re doing some smart things that will enhance inclusion and promote diversity," Ken Howard said.

Top SAG-AFTRA executives have joined the Oscars diversity debate, with president Ken Howard on Tuesday welcoming the Academy's rewrite of voting and membership rules as a first step.

"They’re doing some smart things that will enhance inclusion and promote diversity. That’s a good start," Howard said in a statement. After mounting pressure to alter its voting and membership rules, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Friday unveiled several dramatic changes in its structure and voting regulations with an eye to promoting diversity.

David White, national executive director of SAG-AFTRA, in his own response said it was "appropriate to applaud Cheryl [Boone Isaacs] and Dawn [Hudson], who I know care a lot about this and ensured that it got to the top of the agenda as quickly as it did.

"However, this is only one step, and the truth is we have a pipeline problem. We do not have enough people of color in the pipeline of decision-making," he added, echoing others who have urged that diversity be recognized earlier in the production process and not just during awards season.

The Academy changes were prompted in part by a threatened boycott of the Oscars to protest a lack of diversity in this year's nominations. Mike Hodge, an actor and SAG-AFTRA New York president, said he remained frustrated at the lack of recognition for "great diverse performances" by the Academy voting ahead of the Oscars ceremony on Feb. 28.

"It’s insane that we still grapple with the issue of inclusion in 2016. This has to change," Hodge said in a statement. He saluted all Academy nominees this year for their performances, while noting several diverse actors were recognized with SAG Awards nominations.

"We are proud of that diversity, and it will be on display when our show airs Jan. 30," said Hodge. "But it is not enough. We can not rest until our work, and the recognitions and honors awarded for it, reflect the true diversity of performers and their performances."