On Tuesday (May 29), ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey became trending on Twitter. This time it wasn’t for being the first Black woman to head a major network, but for being the force behind cancelling the second season of Roseanne.
Granted, no one can blame her. The show’s star, Roseanne Barr, forced Dungey into a corner after recently going on a racist Twitter tirade calling former Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett an “ape.”
“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” Dungey said in a statement sent straight from her desk.
And as Dungey has become a household name for her actions, what exactly do you know about her? Here are five fun facts:
1.) In All Of Television History, She Is The First Black Woman To Head A Major Network: Dungey, who graduated from UCLA in 1991, has worked at ABC since 2004 occupying a range of positions, but in 2016 she was given this history-making promotion.
“I’m thrilled and humbled that [Disney|ABC Television Group president] Ben [Sherwood] has entrusted me with this tremendous opportunity. And I am truly grateful to Paul [Lee] for being a valued mentor and friend,” Dungey said in a statement back in 2016.
“I’ve had the great honor of working alongside the talented team at ABC for many years and look forward to starting this exciting new chapter with them.”
During her tenure, she has been credited to helping bring the following shows to the air: Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, Quantico and Once Upon A Time.
2.) While She Cancelled Roseanne, She Helped Bring it Back To The Air: While folks like Ava DuVurnay, Kerry Washington and Voila Davis are hailing Dungey has a “hero” and “queen” for standing up to Barr’s racism, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that it was Dungey who greenlighted the Roseanne reboot in the first place. That, like the rest of us, Dungey and other ABC execs had to have been aware of Barr’s history of racism, xenophobia and promoting conspiracy theories on social media.
Dungey has even defended Barr and the show, saying earlier in the season: “I think [Roseanne Conner’s Trump support] allowed us, between the differing political views of Roseanne and Jackie to address some issues that we think have been conversations at other family dining tables across the country.”
Also during Upfronts, when asked about a problematic joke Roseanne writers made about “black-ish” and “Fresh Off The Boat,” Dungey told the crowd, “We thought that the writers were simply tipping their hat to those shows.”
“That said, I do stand by the Roseanne writers in terms of the decision to include that line. They felt that they were expressing the point of view of the Conners in what they would actually have said.”
3.) She’s Been Called The ‘Shonda Rhimes Whisperer’: Sources told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016 that Dungey was the star producer behind many of the network’s hit shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.” The publication added that Dungey’s “biggest success has been her fruitful relationship with Rhimes.”
Perhaps this is why the Queen of TGIT was so supportive of Dungey cancelling Roseanne.
4.) Dungey Helped Pull That Kneeling-Anthem Black-ish Episode: No doubt, Dungey has been incredibly supportive of black-ish over the years, but she admitted she was a force in why the show’s kneeling episode never reached the small screen.
“As you know, we’ve long been supportive of [creator] Kenya [Barris] and his team tackling challenging and controversial issues in the show; and we’ve always, traditionally, been able to come to a place creatively where we felt good about the story that he was telling even if it felt like it was pushing some hot buttons, and he felt that he was getting to share the story in the way it should be shared,” she said.
“With this particular episode, there were a number of different elements to the episode that we had a hard time coming to terms on. Much has been made about the kneeling part of it, which was not even really the issue, but I don’t want to get into that. At the end of the day, this was a mutual decision between Kenya and the network to not put the episode out.”
(We’d still like to see that episode though. Just saying.)
5.) She’s Adamant About Giving Back To Young Women And Girls: Dungey is a founding member of the Step Up Women’s Network, a national non-profit membership organization dedicated to helping underserved young women and girls.
“If it doesn’t impact you contractually, always take the meeting,” Dungey said at a Step Up breakfast in April 2016 after becoming an ABC president.
“I almost didn’t take a meeting that changed my career. I took a meeting at a production company that resulted in a role I stayed at for four years. That role opened doors for a position at Warner Bros that I may never have secured otherwise.”
Dungey is also a Los Angeles member of BAFTA and serves on the Board of the Motion Picture Television Fund.
Post Roseanne, we’re very intrigued in what Dungey has in store for the network and for furthering the push for diversity on television.
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