In the upcoming season 4 premiere of Variety and PBS’ Actors on Actors series, Scandal’s Kerry Washington and Master of None’s Aziz Ansari had an honest conversation about diversity in Hollywood, being a person of color on television and being able to pay it forward to other folks of color in the industry.
It’s hard to deny the “explosion” of more characters of color thanks to these two and other popular shows such as How To Get Away With Murder, Empire, Underground, Fresh Off The Boat, Jane The Virgin and Orange Is The New Black, to name a few. But both Washington and Ansari still question if the small screen is more diverse than the large one.
“I feel like everybody’s talked so much about how there’s more diversity on TV than in film. I don’t understand why. Do you?” Washington asked Ansari, to which he replied, “I don’t know. If I had to guess I feel like there’s more diverse creators.”
He added, “Our show, it’s Indian guy, Asian guy, so there’s going to be more Indian people, Asian people,” continued Ansari, who stars in “Master of None.” We have a diverse group of friends and we didn’t even really think about it when we were making the show that ‘oh this is diverse.’ We were just like this feels real.”‘
But for Hollywood and its gatekeepers, inclusion doesn’t always feel “real” organic, which has been seen over and over again. With this year’s #OscarsSoWhite, it’s clear that whiteness is still the default, an aspect that transcends the entertainment business, the two stars pointed out.
“I saw this chart in the ‘New York Times’ about like decision makers -the gatekeepers in every single industry- and it was like all white people,” said Ansari.
“It came out after Oscars so white and I loved that they did it because there was all this attention on Hollywood but it was like no no no, every industry is so white,” Washington added.
And while the two cannot fix racism in every workplace, on their watch however, they can do their part in ensuring that they help give underrepresented talent opportunities to grow and shine.
“One thing I’ve thought about in going from season 1 to season 2 is now we’re in a position to help other people and in season 2 I’ve been like I gotta find -I gotta do just even more- and find even more actors of color and writers of color,” said Ansari.
He added, “I’m friends with Chris Rock and I’ve seen how he really takes that initiative to foster talent and to look out for people and I think it’s really important. It’s kind of a responsibility we have once we kind of get to a certain place to look out for people and I’ve really tried to do that in season 2 of my show.”
Washington also has similar opportunities to do the same. As HELLO BEAUTIFUL previously reported, she recently signed a production deal with ABC that will develop broadcast, cable and digital projects exclusively for ABC Studios and ABC Signature, the digital division of the studio. She said in a network statement:
I believe strongly in the importance of having a seat at the table which makes starting this production company thrilling for me. It’s an honor to be at a point in my career when I can help generate projects that that are exciting, necessary, and truly reflect the world around us. I’m grateful to be on this journey with ABC, a network that remains unparalleled in its commitment to inclusive storytelling.”
Catch the two-part fourth-season premiere of “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors” on June 12 and 19 on PBS or stream it next month on Variety.Com.