Beverly Hills, Calif.—Eight panelists affiliated with shows on El Rey, Starz, TV One and WGN America tore into the multifaceted issues of TV diversity during a vibrant, insight-packed panel at the TCA summer press tour.
El Rey founder and chairman Robert Rodriguez delivered a brief introduction to the session. “Cable has made great strides,” he said. “There’s never been a more important time to build cultural understanding of people and working together.”
Panelists spent ample time talking about the positives — more shows with diverse casts on air, multiplying outlets, more people of color involved behind the scenes — but also brought to light the ongoing struggle to reflect America in full.
“The way the system is set up, in order to get a job or be able to vote on awards, it’s all just old practices that don’t suit us at all,” said Victoria Mahoney, a director with credits on feature films as well as TV series like Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse and OWN’s Queen Sugar.
“The old guard’s got to let go of their grip a little bit because that’s not the way the world looks,” said Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who stars on WGN America’s Underground. “Storytellers have a right to express what’s inside of them … and consumers and viewers have a right to see themselves.”
Mahoney noted that she is among the 4% of overall directors who are women of color, according to recent guild surveys. “I’ve never been in the bottom 4% of anything in my life,” she quipped.
D’Angela Proctor, senior vice president of original programming and production for TV One, said the executive suite is another area with a lot of room for improvement.
“We have to be at the table at every single level” for truly inclusive programming to permeate the TV business, she said.
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