The Corner

Diversity Training

Yesterday the head of Disney’s Touchstone Television and the head of

casting for ABC/Disney called me to, er, suggest that According to

Jim might do a little better this year in terms of casting minorities

in significant roles. Our admittedly dismal track record was recited

to me — two Asian-Americans, one Latino (oh, dear, is that the right

term?) in roles of “guest star” billing during the 26-episode course

of last season. “Guest star” is higher than “co-star,” for purposes of

non-regular characters. They didn’t talk about “co-star,” where I

think we did a little better.

The exex were quick to point out that they weren’t singling out ATJ –

they were calling all their shows. And I said nothing more than

“message received, we’ll do better,” because that’s the kind of

cheery, can-do attitude I like to display for my bosses.

With you guys I can whine a little. It’s really hard! Half of our

guest stars end up in fistfights with one of the regulars. So am I

supposed to cast the first African-American neighbor in the history of

the show, only to have Jim punch him out for being a loudmouth? Then

there’s the ongoing demand of the network for “stunt casting” — the

idea being that Tom Arnold should get the part of the loudmouth client

because he’ll bring in viewers. (He didn’t, to everyone’s utter

disbelief, though he is a very nice man.) So if the network insists

on stunt casting AND on diversity, I guess George Lopez is going to

get a lot of calls.

Of course, the conservative in me wants to say we should just find the

best damn performers available, and judge them on the content of their

character-acting, not their color. But that’s impossible, because of

the time limitations. We can’t see everyone in town for every guest

part. Our casting director has a few days for “pre-reads” then brings

the best 6 or 7 choices to us. Ultimately, I will face a situation at

some point this year where I say, “Well, X was the funniest white

actor, but we should probably go with Y.”

And right after I got off the phone with the exex, I got hit again: written on a bulletin board,

“Sexual Harassment Seminar, next Wed. at 8 AM.”

Warren BellWarren Bell was nominated June 20, 2006, by President George W. Bush to be a member of the Board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for the remainder of a ...

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