Last fall, ABC unveiled a set of inclusion standards as a path toward more diverse representation both onscreen and behind the scenes on network shows. For onscreen representation, the guidelines called for 50 percent or more of regular and recurring characters to come from underrepresented groups and the same percentage for the actors who play those parts.
Walt Disney Television chairman of entertainment Dana Walden referenced the standards April 9 during a panel discussion put on by Chapman University and Glamour, and she revealed that the latest crop of pilots received by the network failed to make the grade. “I will tell you for the first time we received some incredibly well-written scripts that did not satisfy our standards in terms of inclusion, and we passed on them,” Walden explained to moderator Janice Min, now a contributing editor at Time and formerly co-president of The Hollywood Reporter.
Walden cited an example of receiving a script centered on a white family with the assumption that the diversity would come with the neighbors. “Pass,” she said. “That’s not going to get on the air anymore because that’s not what our audience wants. That’s not a reflection of our audience, and I feel good about the direction we’re moving.”
Walden said they’re about to announce at the top of next month a new BIPOC programming initiative at Hulu that’s going to be run by Tara Duncan, the current president of Freeform. “It is programming that is by BIPOC storytellers, for BIPOC audiences, curated by executives of color, high-level leaders inside of our organization.
Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke also sat on the panel and teased a forthcoming announcement, calling it a “big inclusion policy,” and one that would’ve seemed too far out of reach even a few years ago. “We have to step out there aggressively and make it happen,” she said. “I see huge changes.” One major shift is happening during greenlight conversations when the question inevitably comes up, “Does this move forward our goals about amplifying under-served voices?”
A version of this story first appeared in the April 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.