Amani Starnes’ new web series centers on what it’s like to be an “ethnically ambiguous” actress in Hollywood and the recipient of a host of stereotypes and biases. Starnes writes that she has “dealt with the ‘What are you?’ question her whole life. But what does it mean to be black, white, and everything in between as she navigates the entertainment industry and life in LA? The United Colors of Amani, a comedy with sociological undertones, sheds light on the uncomfortable, awkward, and outrageous constructions of race permeating showbiz.”
• On New York City stages during the 2011–2012 season, African American actors were cast in 16% of all roles, Latino actors in 3%, Asian American actors in 3%, and other minorities comprised 1%. Caucasian actors filled 77% of all roles. Caucasians continue to be the only ethnicity to over-represent compared to their respective population size in New York City or the Tri-State area.
• The percentage of minority actors rose to 23% this past year, a 2% increase from the year prior. While a significant jump, this level is fairly consistent with levels of minority representation which have consistently remained within the low twenty percent range. The last time representation hit 23% was during the 2007/08 season.
• African American actors increased by 2% compared to last season.
• Latino actors remained at 3% for the third straight year in a row.
• Asian American actors increased slightly from 2% to 3% this past season.
• Only 10% of all roles played by minority actors were non-traditionally cast. This remains the same as last season.
• African Americans were far more likely than any other minority to be cast in roles which were not defined by their race.
• For the second year in a row, the not-for-profit sector lagged far behind the commercial sector when it came to hiring minorities. The opposite was true in the four years preceding this shift, where actors of color were once more likely to find employment within the not-for-profit sector. While total number of minority actors in this sector increased by 3% from 19% the year prior, this is still far below the industry average and is the second year in a row that minority employment among the not-for-profit companies fell below 20%.
• This past season, African Americans and Latinos on non-profit stages increased 1% and 2%, respectively. Asian American actors, however, have been at their lowest point, 2%, for three years in a row now. This is a substantial drop from where they were six and five years ago (4% and 7%, respectively).
Read the full report from the Asian American Performers Action Coalition here. We have the list of last night’s individual winners (performers) of color under the cut. Black actors and actresses, at least, had a good showing in top categories, but four wins can’t negate the facts.
Last year, around this time, I was nursing far too high expectations for a little pilot season pickup called Deception. This year I’m just really glad it’s been cancelled so that the actors involved can escape with some dignity intact. One can’t say the same about Community.
Yeah, it’s that time again. Most networks are at least 80% set with their 2013-2014 Fall/Winter lineups. For better worse you will be sitting through another season of potentially Harmon-less Community. As Abed might say, some stations just like to watch the world burn.
The untitled drama, which echoes the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet, revolves around the haves and have-nots of California’s most seductive cities, Venice. It focuses on two rival families and a forbidden and dangerous romance emerging between them as the two families battle for control of Venice.
So far, I am excited about the writing, and it’s great time slot (post-New Girl); not so excited about the default casting choices thus far. Mindy’s in yet another world where the main characters are white and the people of color are backgrounds, extra, or sassy moments of funny. Hopefully, Mindy makes that a part of the plot, instead of yet another oversight–but the Collider interview makes me think that isn’t going to happen. [Wetpaint, Collider]
I loved, loved, loved Gabrielle Union’s weed-smoking, video game-playing real estate agent in Think Like a Man, but she only had a few moments to shine. Now, she’s got a new show called Being Mary Jane, exploring a successful black television anchor with a less successful lovelife. Sounds promising, but this kind of show is all about the execution. [Shadow & Act, Ebony]
The CW is developing a series on Battle Royale. Yes, we already called Racebending. And they are not going in a direction that could get them banned from TV, which means we should all blow the dust off our DVDs. Also in the news set: Ringer is done, but Sarah Michelle Gellar is welcome to stay with the network. [Deadline Hollywood]
And: John Leguizamo is back with a new TV pilot called Only Fools and Horses. [Deadline] Chris Rock and Deshawn Raw team up for a sketch comedy series. [Shadow and Act] Nelsan Ellis (b.k.a. Lafayette from True Blood) is set to play MLK in Lee Daniels new film The Butler. [Deadline Hollywood] Women and Hollywood posted a great interview with Aurora Guerrero, the writer/director of Mosquita y Mari. [Women and Hollywood]
Lyrics: I hear “nothing’s more American than immigrating in “Working hard is more important than the color of your skin” But if that’s true, why are the faces that look like me Always involved in takeout, kung fu, or exotic villainy? I mean, we wear the same clothes and we do the same things And we talk the same way – but it was never a real dream For me to be Friends with Rachel, Joey, or Ross And “Jason Chu” was not the answer to the question, “Who’s the Boss?” Even on Cheers, where everybody was supposed to know my name I never heard a Chu, Nguyen, Kim, Loke, or Chang So I concluded that Asian faces are only right If we’re talking about rice, or a high-tech device I mean, I just saw the Dark Knight Rise And I cheered every time that I saw an Asian face – twice This is why we don’t win: the systems that we’re in If we build separate communities, we’re viewed as aliens But if we try to play along, we have no hope of blending in They’ll never let John Wayne be played by John Kim But The Airbender was Noah Ringer, and Goku was Justin Chatwin And the whole cast of Akira was gonna be played by white men But I have never seen a role with a European name Be filled by an Asian with the excuse “we cast for talent, not for race” So the La Jolla playhouse can say anything they want In the end, I don’t see action, so I conclude it’s just a front For the same attitude that I’ve always seen out there Because “color-blind” is just a nicer way to say “we don’t care”
Sometimes, I really, really love Louis C.K. He is far from perfect, but he tends to keep things interesting. His bit on “Being White” is one of the top search results when you search his name, and he’s throwing some wrenches into pricing and comedy shows.
Gaps between white experiences and non-white experiences pop up in the strangest places.
Raven-Symoné has a new comedy on ABC Family called State of Georgia. This is her first comedy series where she will be playing an adult role and it’s been interesting watching that transition. I had planned to tune into the premiere, but it moved up in priority when I read the producer, Jennifer Weiner, talking about Raven’s weight loss in USA Today:
Q: Tell us about the show’s star, Raven-Symoné, who plays Georgia.
A: What we were looking for was a larger-than-life, bubbly, exuberant, confident young woman who was convinced of her own worth even when the world couldn’t see it. I really think that’s what we have with Raven. She’s this incredibly natural comedienne.
Q: Is Georgia a classic Jennifer Weiner character?
A: The original intention was for Georgia to be a big, curvy girl, and that would be one of the obstacles she dealt with while pursuing her acting career. She wanted to play the ingénue and the bombshell, and people would want to cast her as the funny best friend. Raven has lost a lot of weight, and that’s been a challenge we’ve been dealing with. But in terms of her sense of humor and outlook on life, Georgia’s going to feel familiar to anyone who loved Canny in Good in Bed or Becky in Little Earthquakes and Addy in Best Friends Forever.
Okay. I’m very familiar with Weiner’s work, having read most of it, and I get it – Weiner writes curvy heroines. She is most comfortable writing about larger women trying to make their way in the world. And there have been a great many discussions (like this one from Women and Hollywood) on the debates around Raven-Symoné’s weight loss and how it impacted what they were doing for the show.
But I’m puzzled. Did no one ever point out that black, thin and thick actresses face that same problem in terms of always being cast as the funny best friend? Come on, now, it’s even got a TV Tropes entry. The same jokes wouldn’t fly, but I am sure there are plenty of women who could help the writing team come up with amazing bits about how screwed up the acting world is to women of color. They could call Angela Nissel and Aisha Tyler in for writing assistance, and ask for people like Gabrielle Union and all of the women on this list to provide real life anecdotes for the show.
Or is that just too scary of a topic?
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World