Show Creator – The person who comes up with at least the basic concept for the show. This person might also be a writer, director, actor and/or producer on the show. Depending on the pedigree of the creator, s/he may or may not have much power when it comes to diverse casting or storylines. A proven entity like an Aaron Sorkin, a JJ Abrams, or even a Shonda Rhimes can demand and get much more than a newer show creator or one without a long track record of misses.
Producers – A show will have several producers, with different responsibilities. Some are charged with managing the artistic vision of the show, some are charged with handling production concerns, some stop by to give notes every once in a while, some help fund the project.
Like show creators, producers vary wildly in what kind of influence they are able to exert. So even if someone wants to create a more diverse story, they may not be in a political position to do so.
Working as a producer can also often serve as a proving ground for someone who wants to have their own show on a network. Because they are hoping to curry favor and goodwill, it may not be advantageous for them to rock the boat by pushing issues of diversity even if their own shows they hope to produce one day will be diverse.
Executives – The studio’s representative on the project. Executives are tasked with managing the long term goals of the studio and/or network as they relate to the various shows they oversee. Because they are working for a much larger entity that has a brand to which they need to be loyal, it can be difficult for an executive to push an agenda that doesn’t fit neatly into the ideas of the studio’s shareholders.
Casting Director – Selects actors to appear on the show. Usually the final decisions on cast have to be approved by producers and executives. So, it’s not unlikely that even if a casting director chooses diverse actors to present to the powers that be, a producer or exec might choose a “safer” choice.
Actors can be considered “safe” for reasons other than race. If an actor already has a large fan base they can bring those fans to a new show. If an actor is set to star in an anticipated film, they can bring the fans of that film to the show as well. An actor may also be connected to a producer or director the studio or network is trying to court or they may simply have the most flexible schedule at the time. All of these factors make it harder for ANY actor to get ANY role on ANY show and can definitely stack the deck against diverse casts.
Writer(s) - A writer may describe a character as being a minority in a script, but that doesn’t mean that character will end up that way. Scripts still have to be approved by the head writer, show runner and/or creator, director, producers, executives and in some cases, existing cast members. Naturally, changes will occur—sometimes at the expense of diversity.
[Movie clapper board image via Shutterstock]