A column about pilot season’s “ethnic castings” from a trade publication caused a stir Tuesday night over claims that white actors are being short-changed by TV’s increasing diversity push.
Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder executive producer Shonda Rhimes was among those who blasted the controversial Deadline column “Pilots 2015: The Year Of Ethnic Castings – About Time Or Too Much Of Good Thing?” and called the story “ignorant.”
Read more TV Pilot Season’s Big Get: Diversity
“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,” Rhimes tweeted.
In the commentary, which was tagged “controversial,” writer Nellie Andreeva notes the crush of diverse castings this pilot season but goes on to quote anonymous insiders bemoaning the lack of parts available to white actors.
Diversity has been one of, if not the biggest trend of the current 2014-15 broadcast season, following the break-out success of series including Rhimes’ How to Get Away With Murder as well as Fox’s Empire, ABC’s Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat — all of which star diverse leads. That trend has carried over into pilot season, where diversity has continued to be a high priority among the broadcast networks, with a notable increase in parts that better reflect the composition of American society. The networks have also championed several dramas and comedies with more diverse approaches, including ABC’s Uncle Buck remake, which now focuses on an all-black family.
“Hey look the grossest possible reaction to a breakthrough TV year,” critic Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker wrote.
“Just astounding that something so tone deaf could be published in 2015 by a supposedly credible news source,” The New York Times’ Dave Itzkoff tweeted with a link to the Deadline story.
“So hard out there for white actors these days! I’m sobbing!” BuzzFeed’s Kate Aurthur added, singling out a particular passage that questioned if the “pendulum may have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction” followed by a blind quote from an unnamed talent representative complaining that half the roles in pilots “have to be ethnic.”
“TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING? I mean…I just…AND HOW MANY TIMES CAN WE SAY ETHNIC IN ONE GODDAMNED ARTICLE, NELLIE?” Grey’s Anatomy star Jerrika Hinton wrote, later adding a few edits to the column’s headline: “HEADLINE: White People No Longer Automatically Considered Default Casting Choice, Makes Me Nervous” and “HEADLINE: TV Protagonists To Now Reflect Actual Demographics Of Audiences, But Whew We Still Got Movies Y’all.”
“What troubles me is the decision-makers in Hollywood who will read that @Deadline tripe about black actors in television and say, “Exactly.”” The New Republic’s Jamil Smith added.
“Initiate Phase 4 of #OperationWhitelash. The unresearched, anonymously sourced “Ethnic Epidemic” expose.” Community‘s Dan Harmon said.
Noted Selma director Ava DuVernay, whose CBS pilot For Justice, also features a largely diverse cast: “What @KateAurthur @ditzkoff @JamilSmith @MattFnWallace @moryan @szacharek said. And I’ll add an eye roll for good measure.”
Rhimes is no stranger to responding to racially insensitive press. In September, New York Times’ television critic Alessandra Stanley ran a now infamous essay about the Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy creator, which featured a series of tone-deaf assertions including: “When Shonda Rhimes writers her autobiography, it should be called ‘How to Get Away with Being an Angry Black Woman.’ ”
In an interview days later, Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter of the article, “In this world in which we all feel we’re so full of gender equality and we’re a postracial [society] and Obama is president, it’s a very good reminder to see the casual racial bias and odd misogyny from a woman written in a paper that we all think of as being so liberal.”
Andreeva did not respond to an email requesting comment on the backlash to the article.