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Minorities make acting gains but remain shut out of top TV jobs

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Stressed black woman (Shutterstock)

Female and minority actors are almost fairly represented in US television series but remain shut out of key behind-the-camera roles including executive jobs, a major new study found Thursday.

The “Hollywood Diversity Report” from University of California Los Angeles found 35 percent of lead roles went to minority actors on cable shows last year. Minorities represent around 40 percent of the US population.

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Women accounted for 45 percent of lead roles on cable, climbing to 49 percent on streaming.

But minorities accounted for just eight percent of studio executive chair and CEO roles, and women just under one-third.

“There has been a lot of progress for women and people of color in front of the camera,” said Darnell Hunt, social sciences dean at UCLA and co-author of the report.

“Unfortunately, there has not been the same level of progress behind the camera. Most notably in the executive suite, there has been very little change since we began compiling data five years ago.

“That’s very telling, particularly in light of our current racial reckoning.”

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The report comes in a year during which anti-racism Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have exposed the nation’s racial divisions.

Shows including “Watchmen,” a dark comic-book satire tackling prejudice that won 11 Emmys last month, have intensified that debate as well as creating more roles for black and minority actors.

Of the more than 100 acting nominations in the Emmys’ series, limited series and television movie categories, more than a third of them went to black actors — a new record.

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Among them were Billy Porter (“Pose”), Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us” and “The Marvelous Mrs Maisel”), Issa Rae (“Insecure”) and Regina King (“Watchmen”).

But while black and multiracial actors were over-represented among cable scripted lead roles last year, Latino, Asian and Native Americans again fell short.

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And white men still overwhelmingly dominate top-level TV executive jobs.

Co-author Ana-Christina Ramon warned that the lack of people of color at executive levels was “problematic” because “storylines may lack authenticity or will be written stereotypically or even ‘raceless’ if the disparity continues.”

The report focusses on television series broadcast between 2017 and 2019.

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Its findings largely mirror the trends seen in a similar UCLA report on the Hollywood film industry released in February.


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