The outcry for Hollywood to finally embrace true diversity both in front of and behind the camera has never been louder than it is right now, particularly as it applies to race and gender, but those rallying cries often overlook other groups in need of better representation in the industry.
As a new piece in Variety reminds us, “diversity means much more than race, and many groups are still under-represented — particularly characters over 60 and people with disabilities.”
According to Adam Moore, national director of EEO and diversity for SAG-AFTRA, much of the casting we see in Hollywood features is reflective of the world at large.
He recently told Variety, “As a society, we are not terribly comfortable with some of these issues. I don’t think it’s due to malice; people go to what they know, and in a business environment, you look for the least risky. But we’re not great about acknowledging the fact that certain people are excluded from the systems in place.”
Similarly, producer and former television executive Loreen Arbus makes note of the people with disabilities (PWDs) we see on our screens. She directed Variety to “a GLAAD study that monitored 2015 broadcast series and found 881 regular characters: 84 of them were PWDs, representing only 0.09% — down from 1.4% in 2014.
But Arbus is looking for ways she can help improve the system. She told Variety that she’s “working on specific projects as well as a proposal for rethinking the whole process. That includes a form of speed-dating, but for casting directors and performers, ‘so people with disabilities will have a chance to get a couple of inches inside the door, so that Hollywood will hire more people with disabilities.'”
Moore is also optimistic about the state of the industry, and he told the outlet, “We’re starting to see movement. There are audiences saying, ‘We spend money! We watch stuff!'”
Examples of that movement? Shows like “Grace and Frankie,” which is reportedly the first series since “Golden Girls” to primarily focus on characters who are over 60. Variety also notes that ABC is playing home to a new fall series, “Speechless,” which involves a special-needs child.
Moore added, “We’re seeing more and more audiences leave same-old/same-old entertainment; they are desperately clamoring for something different from what they’ve seen before.