Wednesday, April 22, 2015

George Takei is everywhere

Hollywood figures urge talent agencies to diversify

George Takei, actor and activist
GEORGE TAKEI is everywhere: He's rehearsing for the Broadway premier of his musical Allegiance; he's stepping in to stop the sale of artwork made by Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II; he's on the Internet in his new reality web series It Takes Two (See video below), and - most recently - he's in speaking up for increased representation of minorities in the movie and television industry.

A media coalition of multi-ethnic Hollywood watchdogs — including the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition, American Indians in Film and Television, NAACP Hollywood Bureau and National Hispanic Media Coalition — is calling on the entertainment world's  talent agencies to meet with the coalition and talk about how to inject more color into their lineups, not less.

“Although the major talent agencies are located in Los Angeles, the most diverse city in the world, they seem largely unaware of the amazing talent that exists in communities right under their noses," said Takei. "They should partner with these coalitions for their mutual benefit: more representation and jobs for Asian American and other actors of color, and more dollars for the agencies.”

The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC) has agreements with ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC committing them to work to increase diversity on-screen and behind the camera. APAMC members include such organizations as the Asian American Justice Center, East West Players, Japanese American Citizens League, Media Action Network for Asian Americans, National Federation of Filipino American Associations, OCA, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Visual Communications.

The press conference was partially in reaction to an article in Deadline shortly after the Oscars this year when no person of color was nominated for any of the acting awards #OscarsSoWhite.

The Deadline article, citing anonymous talent agents, raised the question that the apparent increase in acting roles given to actors of color (ie. Fresh Off The Boat, Blackish, Empire, Cristela, Jane the Virgin, etc.) may be too much of a good thing because white actors were allegedly losing jobs because so many productions were seeking actors of color. The article was roundly criticized and Deadline had to issue an apology because, the drop-in-a-bucket increase of acting jobs for actors of color didn't affect the majority of roles which were still overwhelmingly white.

The media coalition's press release says that talent firms remain a major barrier to full inclusion of the nation’s diversity in television and film. According to the 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report by UCLA’s Bunche Center for African American Studies, “minority talent remained underrepresented on every front at the dominant agencies,” as directors, leads, creators, and writers in film and television.

That is a problem, given the “tremendous influence” major talent agencies wield, which continues to “shape the labor market of the film and television industry.” Without representation, especially in the top talent firms, people of color are denied a fair chance at advancing their careers in the entertainment industry.

You can find more episodes of It Takes Two on YouTube.