Looking for diversity? Hollywood could turn on the TV

NEW YORK -- As Hollywood continues to be battered by a backlash to the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations and in the film industry at large, it doesn't have to look far for inspiration: Just turn on the TV.

See Full Article

Where the movies have lagged, television has recently exploded with diversity across the dial. Now, the film industry will be playing catch-up to the small screen, where some of the most talented people of colour have turned for greater artistic freedom and the chance to tell more varied stories that don't require capes or marketability in China.

Many previous Oscar nominees are already there.

Ava DuVernay, director of last year's best picture-nominee "Selma," is currently at work on "Queen Sugar," a drama series for Oprah Winfrey's OWN. John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "12 Years a Slave," is in the second season of his acclaimed ABC series, "American Crime." Forest Whitaker, who won best actor for 2016's "The Last King of Scotland," is part of a "Roots" remake for A&E. Two-time Oscar nominee Viola Davis is on Shonda Rhimes' "How to Get Away With Murder" for ABC.

"TV cares about its audience," says Davis, who in September became the first African-American to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama. "TV wants to cater to the demographics of what is America."

Television is a faster, more nimble medium than film, where movies regularly take years to make; but it also has some structural advantages. Power in Hollywood is still largely held by the six major studios and a handful of other large production companies. In television, there's a veritable ocean of opportunity, including cable and streaming networks with deep pockets and a willingness for riskier material.

Though the television landscape was less diverse just a few years ago, it's -- for now -- flush with the likes of Lee Daniels' "Empire," Aziz Ansari's "Master of None" and Jill Soloway's "Transparent."

"How you fill up the volume is by writing more narratives," said Davis. "And the narratives have got to be varied. Everything can't be the same. And therefore, it gives people the opportunity to come in and show what they can do."

To compete in an increasingly crowded media landscape, studios now bankroll fewer films and instead focus on bigger blockbusters that can sell tickets around the globe. It's a strategy that has been largely working (2015 set a record of $11.1 billion at the box office), but it has put a stranglehold on distinct voices, of any colour, who find little daylight between hulking franchises.

As a producer, Whitaker twice found rejection at the studios before raising money independently for 2013's "Fruitvale Station" (the breakout debut of director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan, who reteamed for the Oscar-overlooked "Creed") and Rick Famuyiwa's 2015 teen comedy "Dope."

"We're taking a leap on stories that maybe somebody else says they just don't get," Whitaker said when releasing "Dope."

New streaming platforms have provided new avenues for some filmmakers. Spike Lee, who has said he won't attend the Oscars, found a home for his latest film, the gang violence takedown "Chi-Raq," with Amazon. The child soldier drama "Beasts of No Nation," which provided arguably the much-praised but un-nominated performance by Idris Elba, came from Netflix.

"We must do a better job of cultivating and recognizing diversity," Chris Dodd, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, said Wednesday. "The film community is better served when a wider array of voices is celebrated."

But in today's homogenous Hollywood, variety of any kind is hard to come by. Incremental change is often measured in the makeup of franchises.

Two of 2015's most popular films -- "Furious 7" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" -- grossed more than $1 billion with casts that came closer to reflecting American society and moviegoers than blockbusters of the past did. After years of white superheroes, Marvel has enlisted Coogler to direct its "Black Panther" movie.

But Darnel Hunt, head of UCLA's Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American studies, cautions against viewing gestures of diversity as representations of deeper progress.

"I don't think most of the public is aware of what goes on behind the scenes and how exclusionary the business really is -- particularly if you see people of colour on screen, which you do increasingly see on television," says Hunt. "But if you look behind the scenes, you don't see nearly as much diversity."

Hunt co-authors UCLA's annual Hollywood Diversity Report and year after year, the results have been damning. Though minorities make up nearly 40 per cent of the U.S. population, they receive only 17 per cent of the lead roles in theatrical films. Hollywood executives are 94 per cent white and almost entirely male. Though TV has made some strides in front of the camera, its board rooms and writers' rooms (not to mention late-night TV hosts) remain largely white and male, too.

"We are light years away. The lack of nominations was, to me, almost a perfect reflection of what the industry looks like," says Hunt. "TV seems more open because they're making a lot more TV, so there are more opportunities for women and minorities. But not in the key decision-making positions."

------

AP's Michael Cidoni Lennox contributed to this report from Los Angeles.



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • Movie reviews: 'Battle of the Sexes' feel-good film that takes sexism to task

    Entertainment CTV News
    BATTLE OF THE SEXES: 3 STARS “Battle of the Sexes” is undoubtedly a sports movie. The climatic tennis match between Wimbledon triple-winner Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) and the women’s tennis world champion Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) takes up much of the last half hour of the film, but it isn’t strictly a sports drama. Source
  • 'I have difficulty with the hero thing:' Jeff Bauman on Boston Marathon bombing film Stronger

    Entertainment CBC News
    How does it feel to have Jake Gyllenhaal play you in the major new movie? "It was surreal," says Jeff Bauman, the real-life inspiration for Gyllenhaal's latest film Stronger. In theatres Friday, the drama based on Bauman's memoir of the same name tells the story of his recovery after losing his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Source
  • Jimmy Kimmel transforms health debate, shows comedy's new role

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YOR-- If the latest Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare doesn't work, it may become known as the Jimmy Kimmel Non-Law. The comic's withering attacks this week have transformed the debate over the bill (sponsored by Sens. Source
  • Ryan Gosling to host 'SNL' premiere with Jay-Z as musical guest

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK - "Saturday Night Live" says it's kicking off its 43rd season Sept. 30 with guest host Ryan Gosling and musical guest Jay-Z. For Gosling's encore host appearance he'll be on hand to promote his new film, "Blade Runner 2049. Source
  • U2 delayed 'Songs of Experience' album to perfect tunes for concert setting

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    U2 stalled the release of their new album last year, so they could perfect their new songs for a concert run. The band began work on Songs of Experience in 2014, and wrapped up the project a year ago, but guitarist The Edge and his bandmates held off on releasing the album so they could polish the tracks. Source
  • 'Riverdale' star K.J. Apa injured after dozing off at the wheel

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Riverdale star K.J. Apa is recovering from a late night car crash after reportedly falling asleep at the wheel. The 20-year-old, who plays Archie in the Archie Comics TV adaptation, dozed off while driving home after a 16-hour work day in Vancouver, B.C. Source
  • Online backlash after Melissa Joan Hart complains Hurricane Maria ruined vacation [Video]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Melissa Joan Hart sparked fury when she took to social media to complain that Hurricane Maria had ruined her family vacation. The 41-year-old actress, most famous for her roles on TV show Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Clarissa Explains It All, shared a post on Instagram on Tuesday, with a screenshot of a weather report alongside the caption: “And just like that, our family vacation is cancelled. Source
  • 4 streaming video apps to watch TV, movies on your phone

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Televisions? Where we’re going we don’t need televisions. Whatever your feelings might be about Apple — devotee, detractor, or ambivalent – the release of a new iPhone is always a pretty big deal. Store lineups! Breathless reviews! A sudden glut of older iPhones appearing on Kijiji! It’s like a rite of passage every fall. Source
  • Montreal hotel redesigns suite that hosted Lennon and Ono's 'bed-in for peace'

    Entertainment CTV News
    MONTREAL -- The iconic signs "hair peace" and "bed peace" still appear in the window of the Montreal hotel room where John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their famous bed-in 1969 -- only now they're window decals instead of hand-drawn posters. Source
  • Tom Cruise partially responsible for 'American Made' pilots' deaths: Victims families [Video]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Families of the two pilots killed making movie American Made have accused Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman of being partially responsible for their deaths. Alan Purwin and Carlos Berl lost their lives when their small plane encountered bad weather and crashed in the Andes mountains in Colombia in September 2015. Source