Sunday, August 6, 2017

CBS still struggling with diversity and inclusion

Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim left 'Hawaii Five-0.'

CBS is still being dogged about questions of diversity and inclusion after the controversial departure of two prominent Asian/American actors from Hawaii Five-0.

Korean/Americans Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, who were both series regulars from the beginning of the series, made the decision to leave the series ahead of its upcoming eighth season after the network and producers CBS Television Studios did not offer them the same deals as white co-stars Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan.

Since their exits were announced just before the July 4th weekend, the network insists the decision not to treat Kim and Park equally with their white co-stars, was not based on race. The network's attempts to explain what happened and why the two AAPI actors left the successful Hawaii-based series still sound hollow.

CBS has tried to dampen the outcry by replacing Kim and Park with three other AAPI actors and elevating three Hawaiian/Americans to regular cast members.

Kim, said he grateful for his time on Hawaii Five-0 and respected the people he worked with in front and behind the camera. "That said, it's possible to be grateful for the opportunity and respectful of the colleagues and the people that I work with and still maintain a steadfast sense of your self-worth," Kim told reporters Sunday (July 6) at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour, where he was supporting ABC's The Good Doctor, in which he acts as executive producer.

In a note on his Facebook page, Kim thanked fans, the cast, crew and creative team and singled out how important playing Chin Ho was to him: "As an Asian-American actor, I know first-hand how difficult it is to find opportunities at all, let alone play a well-developed, three-dimensional character like Chin Ho. I will miss him sincerely. … The path to equality is rarely easy."

CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl said at the Television Critics Association press tour on last week and senior executive vice president Thom Sherman were hammered on the network's lack of inclusive casting and male-dominated lineup issues during their time before the press at TCA. "We are absolutely moving in the right direction," Kahl said, citing a 60 percent lift in non-white series regulars and ongoing efforts to include more people of color behind the scenes. 
One of the TV critics noted the absence of a female-fronted series on the network, Sherman explained that it was not for a lack of trying. "CBS did develop female lead shows last year," he said. "The way things turned out, those pilots were felt not to be as good as the other shows that were picked up."
Another reminded the execs that multiple CBS series, including the passed-over drama pilot Mission Control, were written with diverse leads, but then cast with white actors in the starring roles. Sherman reminded the audience that the show was cast before he and Kahl were in their current roles. 

One of the problems might be with CBS casting department, which is whiter than the shows being aired.  A reporter revealed that the network's casting departments in L.A. and New York are all white, which surprised many of the critics in the room. Asked to explain, Sherman offered, a bit lamely, that the departments have "been together for a long time," but he added that it is something the network is "looking at."

"We are making progress," insisted Kahl.

“We can debate the pace of the change, but there is change happening at CBS,” Kahl said, noting an overall uptick in diverse series regulars in recent years. “Every single drama on our air has at least one diverse regular character.”

Gee, thanks. I guess we're supposed be grateful for that.

To be fair ...

Perhaps Kahl and Sherman should try connecting with the corporation's efforts to diversify its work force. It has launched its Diversity Initiative, which it launched in 2016 in an effort to find actors, comedians, writers and behind-the-camera talent to nurture and train in their careers.

The CBS Corporation Diversity Council dedicates its time and effort to assist the CBS Corporation to meet its goals in Diversity and Inclusion in both the letter and the spirit of those goals. In so doing, it supports and strengthens efforts companywide to:
  • Build representation of diverse groups throughout our workforce at every level
  • Identify the best practices from across divisions that help build the careers of diverse employees and work to communicate the benefit of those practices to implement them companywide
  • Continue the process of identifying diverse suppliers to build their ongoing role in the provision of goods and services to the company
  • Strengthen the dialogue across the corporation around the topics of Diversity and Inclusion – building bridges between divisions, corporate groups and employee groups devoted to this important topic
  • Provide outreach to the communities we serve through employee engagement, partnerships, mentoring and informational forums
  • Enhance and build robust communications vehicles centering on diversity efforts, outreach and initiatives
Here are two CBS employees on diversity: