I read a very good article at Slate.com about the lack of diversity in the Hollywood writing room. The article talks about how Hollywood is progressing when it comes to hiring actors of color in front of the screen. But apparently when it comes to the writers room it’s a different story.
On screen, things are looking up for people of color in the television industry. Thank the “Shonda Effect,” a term inspired by Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes’ commitment to casting people of color in lead roles in all of her hit shows. Hollywood has taken note of Rhimes’ ascendance, as well as her outspoken insistence on diversity in her work. The success of Scandal in particular—when it premiered in 2012, it was the first network drama with a black woman as its lead in nearly four decades—seems to have prompted a call for more stories centered around people of color. It’s safe to say that if it weren’t for Rhimes and her eclectic casts (and writers’ rooms), we would never have gotten so many shows rich with people of color on screen and off.
But the view behind the scenes is less encouraging. Setting aside the impressively diverse staffs of those few Rhimes and Rhimes-adjacent series, writers’ rooms, like the one Gray was in on Dog With a Blog, are still overwhelmingly white and male, as are the high-powered positions of showrunner and executive producer. A Writers’ Guild of America report released earlier this year noted that staff employment for people of color actually decreased between the 2011–12 season and 2013–14 season, from a peak of 15.6 percent to 13.7 percent. The number of executive producers of color also decreased in those seasons, from 7.8 percent to 5.5 percent. While the 2014–15 season may have seen those numbers increase thanks to the addition of a few shows with diverse casts, such sharp declines demonstrate how tenuous progress in Hollywood can be.
The article also mentions the struggles that different black writers have experienced in Hollywood, the different writing diversity programs available and the advantages of having writers of color on shows featuring a large number of minority actors and actresses.