Casting directors think they know why the focus of fostering diversity is bothering certain people, but they still believe it’s time for Hollywood to get a makeover.
As Risa Bramon Garcia sees it, her contemporaries do not like being told that they have to make a more conscious effort to include actors of color in the rosters they build. She told KPCC recently that this really a reflection of consumer power as advertisers are demanding networks do a better job of representing their customers and the networks then lean on the casting directors to deliver.
“It’s become a mandate to cast with diversity in television and in films,” Risa said. “It’s almost become—it has become necessary to include diversity casting for its own sake and that creates a lot of reaction.”
Risa added, “Opening up our minds to that is fantastic and it’s necessary, but what’s happened is that there’s a mandate now.”
She doesn’t believe that this is necessarily a new concept when it comes to hiring, and she used a somewhat sensitive label to explain what’s happening. “It is affirmative action. We have to call it what it is,” said Risa, who doesn’t believe that this is a bad thing. “What’s wonderful about all of this is that we are being forced to look at casting roles with an open mind.”
Pointing out that some casting directors are not thrilled about the push to make sure that TV and film are no longer so monochromatic, Risa stated that this focus on diversity doesn’t just affect the racial makeup of a network’s lineup.
“People need to be educated and be reminded that the world now that we’re living in has huge diverse range,” she stated. “This doesn’t just mean color. It means sexuality. It means a number of things—it means age; it means women. It means women of color of age! It means everything.”
Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd, who is currently casting the third season of “Being Mary Jane,” has seen this casting behavior before. “It’s been cyclical. When I started working in this business in 1997 I was working on ‘Moesha,’” she recalled, adding that her show shared a lot with “The Wayans Brothers” and “Sister, Sister” back in the day. “It’s coming back to that and more in drama.”
She also gave listeners a new way of looking at that situation. It’s not so much about just making sure to cast actors of color, it’s about presenting a more accurate reflection of the world we live in. “I feel like it is about casting more globally—a landscape—as opposed to just casting non-White.”
Since she did say it was a cycle, KPCC wondered if Tracy was at all concerned about what happens when casting for diversity is no longer such a huge focus. The station essentially asked if she thought this was just a recurring theme for TV. She explained that it’s no longer a trend this time around as there are still plenty of opportunities for Black actors because they’re not just limited to working on TV anymore.
“I’m not worried about it ending at all. The wonderful thing about it is that now we have a number of different outlets for the work,” she pointed. “We’ve got Hulu and Netflix and Amazon, so the landscape is broadening and there will continue to be diversity.”