ConQnA: Jo Roark

ConQnA kicks off with my first guest is Jo-Dean Roark who recently moved to LA to pursue TV writing!

Jo went to NYU at the same time I did and I got to help out a little on the set of her webseries Dorm Therapy. She’s developing another (awesome-sounding) webseries about a girl who can see the future when she applies make-up. Follow the show accounts on Facebook and Twitter, plus Jo’s own Twitter — It’ll premiere this spring! Jo has been a real big supporter of me, because that’s just the kind of person she is, and I’m really proud of her gumption to just get the work done. Here is her writing journey so far!

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Welcome to this week’s (slightly delayed) clicks! Let me know which articles you’ve been reading. And if you have any suggestions for links to share, leave a comment or shoot me a tweet! Let’s jump right in!

Belafonte and Clarke Interracial Touching TV

This was a controversy in 1968. For context, it happens a month before MLK is assassinated.

This Huffington Post article goes through a few major landmarks in black television. From Amos and Andy‘s outrageous stereotypes to the present day where a black woman is a president on TV (for however long State of Affairs manages to sustain itself). That in and of itself is cool for those who didn’t know about these shows and their legacies, but this quote really stood out to me:

Such a torrid romance [re: Scandal’s Fitz/Olivia] marks a head-spinning change from 1968, when, during the taping of a duet for her NBC special, British pop singer Petula Clark clasped the arm of Harry Belafonte, the beloved calypso star and social activist. It was a gesture that spurred the sponsor, Chrysler, to demand this instance of “interracial touching” be edited out.

The emphasis is mine, because wow! I know that there were such strict rules on television back then (I mean, Lucy couldn’t even say she was pregnant with a baby she got by sleeping in the bed next to her husbands!), but for the sponsor to want an arm touch edited out…! Seems so silly. “Interracial touching.” Tch!

Also:

In a few cases, in the weeks following the incident, as at CBS, there were directives from on high to writers, producers, directors, and studio programing heads instructing them “to intensify immediately the portrayal and use and actual number of Negroes in entertainment programs.” [x]

Uhm, can we get CBS to have a similar “intensification?”

♥ I shared a piece by this author, Eric Haywood, last week about banning the word “aspiring” from your vocabulary as a writer. This time, I’ve found another bit of searing Haywood advice: “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.” The article is about having work ready to show someone always, at a moment’s notice. I am still working on having one thing finished, much less a constant flow of work-in-progresses, but it’s still important advice that I need to let marinate. Because as a writer, I should never be done writing. There are times when I am “finished” and something is ready to go off into the world (again, still working on that part), but then I should already be on the next thing. As it is, I do have a backlog of ideas for certain things, they’re just, unfortunately, not all TV shows, aka the medium I want to work in. “But that means you should already have a current piece of submission-ready material available at a moment’s notice.” As a chronic procrastinator who often needs deadlines to work, I need to work on “staying ready” more than “I can do it later if you tell me when it’s due.” Writer!Connie still has a lot of work to do.

Also this was great advice for all of us writers, no matter the field:

“In the age of smartphones and cloud computing, there is absolutely no reason for you to ever leave home without a PDF of your latest writing sample just a few thumb-clicks away. Not ever. Period. Let me repeat that being prepared is no automatic guarantee of success.”

♥ I was going to share this article on the end of TV shows we love, and I technically still am, but once I read this line, I immediately disliked it: “It can be argued that a show like Friends never jumped the shark, but I would argue that happened some time between when Ross and Rachel first broke up to when Monica and Chandler got together.” NOPE. The Monica/Chandler arc was the best thing to happen to Friends. You can’t jump the shark then UN-jump it, unless this author just thinks that everything that happened after season 2 was awful? Which is utterly ridiculous. Aside from overuse of the phrase “jumping the shark,” I do agree that shows end for a reason and sometimes it is before we want them to, but that’s just so they don’t end after we hate them. Ugh, that Friends blasphemy just riled me up! (Blasphemy, another word I think I should probably stop overusing…)

♥ This article, “What is a Universal Story Anyway,” is fantastic with regard to discussing what “universal” means and how it silences so many stories. I’ve plucked out some great quotes. Please check out the entire piece because I never thought about the term “universal” in such a way.  My favorite quote, “It’s not our job to cater to the lowest common denominator. It’s our job to raise,” (from The West Wing) definitely fits in with the jist of this piece.

“It’s hard to tell your own story to a broad audience, when you have been deemed “other” from birth.”

“[T]his new shift offers a glimpse into what media might look like if it had always been this way, if “universal” were defined in someone else’s favor.”

“The definition of “universal” is owned by those whose stories have already been told—and told with complexity. Writers who lie outside of this boundary are pressured to adopt the same stories, the same language, used and approved by others. Readers who have never seen themselves reflected back are expected to continue not existing. Using “universal” to enforce only makes our stories narrower, but using it as an opportunity to explore the lives of others, so unlike our own, takes back the term and gives it the meaning it’s meant to have.”

♥ As January passes us by, February into spring means the peak of pilot season! Shows are being picked up for pilots, names are being attached to projects, and soon enough, production will begin on the slate of offerings for the 2015-2016 season (already!?!). Between the midseason premieres, summer limited series, and the onslaught of Netflix/Hulu/Amazon shows we’re expecting, this is a list of a few nerd-friendly TV shows that are coming this year so far.

What are you looking forward to watching?

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100 things to do before high school nickelodeon diversity

100 Things to Do Before High School Look at that beautiful kidsitcom diversity!

♣ Confession: I have another blog — that needs resurrecting — called Childish Things. Based on a C.S. Lewis quote, it’s about ridding yourself of the fear of so-called “childish things.” For a long time, I hid my interest in cartoons or refused to read children’s/YA lit because I thought I wasn’t supposed to. So I created a blog to discuss that. It’s been dormant for a while, but posts like this one in the NY Times make me want to bring it back. It discusses the changing Nickelodeon live action format and from what it sounds like, I’d love to be apart of that new wave of children’s television. I want more sophisticated programming for kids — for kids like me who read books all the time or watched grown up TV with their parents/guardians. The two programs mentioned most, Bella and the Bulldogs and 100 Things to Do Before High School, sounds really interesting — shows I definitely want to check out. And they’re also presenting diverse stories for people of color and children who don’t conform to gender stereotypes. Nickelodeon used to be the place to go to alternative kids programming, especially in the 90s, hopefully they are returning to that lack of formula. Maybe you’ll see something about this on that other blog I’ve got.

♣ Confidence is a big issue with me. I am not one of those people who wants attention and proudly proclaims their accomplishments. I am trying, social media helps make it a bit easier (shameless plugs abound in the #Clicks), but I’ve still got a long way to go. This piece in Script Magazine tells me what I already know, I’ve got to stop using the word “aspiring.” I’ve removed it from certain social media profile descriptions and am trying to keep it out of my personal vocabulary. It helps that I’ve been writing more, opening Final Draft more. But I still need to work on my writing mindset. These words from the article help:

Stop aspiring.

I mean it. If you’ve developed the habit of referring to yourself as an “aspiring writer,” cut it out. Do yourself a huge favor and take the word “aspiring” out of your vocabulary. It’s not helping you. In fact, it might even be hurting you.

Why? Because you’re not an aspiring writer. You’re a writer, period. Full stop. End of sentence.

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t sold a script or been staffed yet. To the contrary, that’s the very reason why you shouldn’t call yourself “aspiring.” Just as you wouldn’t welcome an “aspiring plumber” into your home to tear up your pipes, or trust an “aspiring doctor” to operate on you, why would anyone want to hire an “aspiring” writer? And the simple answer is, they don’t. People just hire writers. Start branding yourself as simply a writer, and it’ll have a direct impact on how you’re perceived by the people you meet.

So if you struggle with the word “aspiring,” click through and maybe Eric Haywood’s words will inspire you too.

♣ Speaking of writing, a reminder for me as a writer (also doubles as my weekly Jane the Virgin reference)

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As long as characters want different things, there is conflict, there is story. #JaneTheVirgin #TCA15

— Danielle Turchiano (@danielletbd) January 13, 2015

♣ Fresh of the Boat’s publicity tour is making me so nervous. Check out the awkward panels that have happened since they’ve started doing press. I hope the show does well and provides more opportunities for Asian actors, but this doesn’t feel like a great start. Conversely, drama provides interest and clicks — maybe its a way to get more publicity so people tune in? Entertainment Weekly and Audrey Magazine each have pieces on the drama.

♣ @xcerteras on Twitter has a list of sci-fi/fantasy shows that need to step up their diversity game. If you love charts,click through:

♣ Lastly, have you been watching The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore? I think it’s been knocking it out of the park in this, its first week. Already he’s covered things that other shows refuse to cover, like protests, Cosby, Cuba, and this week’s State of the Union. He’s had diverse panelists (like, real diversity, not blonde/blonde/brunette diversity), but also hasn’t been afraid to have a guest with a contrary opinion to the rest of the group.  It’s been great and I’m excited to get to see it live next week! The Writers Guild of America shared this article on Wilmore, exploring his past screenwriting accomplishments, including a show called The PJs, which was going to be the title of a project I’m working on, until I found out someone used it already.

Note the part where Wilmore writes that the acting style will be naturalistic, and the show will be shot in cinéma vérité style. Almost like a documentary. Hmmm… is there another show like that? One that began production after BERNIE MAC had been on the air for four seasons? And that eventually procured Wilmore as a writer?

Hmm, this, like the Living Single/Friends thing (look it up), is so very interesting in the ways black television does something first, but something more.. ahem, “mainstream”… later codifies the tropes and becomes the household name for the formatting innovation. Anyway, check out The Nightly Show and click the link to see some pages from his scripts.

♣ Oh wait! Last night, I wrote my first post on Buzzfeed! Check it out, I posit names for Ben and Leslie’s children on Parks and Recreation. Because we all know Leslie would totally want to name her kids Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

♣ And finally, this time for real, for real:

So if you haven’t already, now’s the time to go ahead and make that resolution. Resolve to stop aspiring. Take that dirty word out of your everyday conversation once and for all, and by all means, please take it out of your Twitter bio – yes, YOU. You know who you are. — Eric Haywood.

Shonda Rhimes is Winning Awards Left and Right and It’s Only the Beginning

Shonda Rhimes to Receive WGAW’s 2015 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award

Shonda Rhimes has been winning awards left and right recently! There was the Director’s Guild Diversity Award  last year (which got all sorts of controversial press because of Shonda’s statement that she was “pissed off” that they even needed an award for such a thing) and recently the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, which made headlines as Shonda broke the glass ceiling analogy by explaining that all the women who came before her cracked it first. Now she’s set to receive another award: The Paddy Chayesfsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement (isn’t that a mouthful) from the Writer’s Guild of America.

Named after one of the most influential writers in entertainment history, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement is the WGAW’s highest award for television writing, given to writers who have advanced the literature of television throughout the years and made outstanding contributions to the profession of the television writer. Past Television Laurel Award recipients include Steven Bochco, Susan Harris, Stephen J. Cannell, David Chase, Larry David, Diane English, Marshall Herskovitz & Ed Zwick, Joshua Brand & John Falsey, and, most recently, Garry Marshall.

See the names of those who have previously won this award? All white people. Only two women. Shonda will be the first black women, or woman of any color to receive this award — the guild’s “highest” award. That’s amazing. That’s inspiring. In a world where people of her gender and color are often marginalized, Shonda is not only making strides but giving opportunities to others who are pushed to the side. She’s showing us that you can have black leads and a diverse cast and dominate the ratings (competing even with football of all things). She’s providing  complicated characters of varying colors who aren’t stereotypes but aren’t perfect either. And she’s writing (and/or producing) compelling television that has people tweeting and talking about episodes weeks after they air.

I love that she is getting all of this recognition and while Grey’s Anatomy is in its 11th season (!!), this should still be considered just the beginning of her career. I can see her name being attached to loads of TV shows, even if she’s not writing them, à la a lot of the other names on that list of Laurel Award recipients past.

Shonda’s not a perfect writer. There are think pieces all over the internet with regard to her characters and her writing style, but she hadn’t written TV before Grey’s Anatomy and all writing is a process. I think she is, more and more, realizing her brand and sees what’s working best for audiences and is adapting to it. Rhimes herself, in awards speeches she’s made, has mentioned how competitive she is, so receiving these awards means she’s only going to continue to grow and try to outdo herself. And I am excited to see what she’ll come up with next.

Check the press release here: Shonda Rhimes to Receive WGAW’s 2015 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award.

Midseason Diversity Check-In

From what I’ve noticed of this season’s midseason finales, is that it’s been a rough one. Characters have died left and right, been fired, gone missing, etc — I’M SO WORRIED ABOUT ABUELA! — and a whole bunch of other trials that don’t even happen at season finales! But let’s check in with some of our new and returning characters of color this season. How are they doing as characters and how are their shows faring so far this season?

[a few midseason finale spoilers below, particularly Sleepy Hollow, Scandal and Jane the Virgin. Proceed at your own risk.]

Sleepy Hollow

They did what to who? #RIPBelovedCharacter

Over on Sleepy Hollow, it seems like Abbie (Nicole Beharie) has been getting the short end of the stick and fans are noticing. I’m three episodes behind, but from what I saw before I needed to catch up and what I’ve heard with regard to the over-inclusion of Katrina and the killing of Captain Irving (Orlando Jones), it seems that what we once loved about Sleepy Hollow is being written out of existence. (Killing Irving feels a bit like the Black Guy Dies First trope, honestly. Though John Cho’s character did die last season and he was also a major character. That felt more nuanced, however, and Orlando Jones was promoted to main cast and then killed off, so it certainly speaks to the typical horror trope. Le sigh.) Here’s hoping that Irving is magically resurrected and brings new life back to the show. Also, less Katrina. Hopefully this is mere sophomore slump and things will turn around, but if they don’t do it soon enough, it won’t make it to a season 3.

Gotham

Jada Pinkett Smith Fish Mooney

Gotham’s downfall but the show’s saving grace?

One time slot later, Jada Pinkett-Smith has been owning things as Fish Mooney in Gotham City, but can she save an otherwise kinda dull show? I’m also three episodes behind on that one, but I’m not sure I have the desire to tune in again. Fish is the brightest (visually, and she’s definitely up there intellectually) and most interesting character on the show (Penguin holds about even in most fans opinions), so hopefully they give her enough to do. But I’m a little bored by Gotham so far.

Jane the Virgin

Villanuevas

Sorry Sleepy Hollow, but if you continue the way you’re going, Jane the Virgin is going to get my Mondays at 9pm live-viewing points. It’s one of the best shows, new or old, on television now, flawlessly weaving from comedy to drama to mystery to melodrama in the blink of an eye without losing its momentum. Definitely the strongest writing of the season, especially for a new show. The Golden Globes recently recognized nominated it for Best Comedy, as well as star Gina Rodriguez for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. I’m not holding my breath that they’ll win, but hey, miracles happen. My only concern for Jane (besides what happened to Abuela in the midseason finale — !! –) is how long can they stretch the premise? I can see the show going one strong season and maybe a season 2, but what are the plans for after she has the baby and for when she’s perhaps, no longer a virgin? Will the show just outlive it’s title? It seems that audiences have shown, with their lack of patience for will-they/won’t they, that they won’t be content to be strung along to wait for Jane to marry a suitor. So far, I’ve been no reason to not trust the creative team, but the concern is in the back of my mind. (Side note: After writing about Sleepy Hollow’s death above, I’ve realized that Zazz’s death was also “Black Guys Dies First”… ::sigh::)

The Flash

Iris and Barry

You’ve got a lot cut out for you, Iris, if you want us to love you as much as we love your dad. And to ship you with Barry, rather then the SnowBarry love that’s snowballing through Central City.

I love The Flash. I love Joe West, played by the impeccable Jesse L. Martin. He and Barry (Grant Gustin) have amazing father-son chemistry and usually at least once per episode, a scene between them pulls at your heart-strings. Iris (Candice Patton), on the other hand, has a little ways to go. Barry loves her — this is great for black women being presented as the love interest, especially since she’s not a black female stereotype. But is she too tame in the other direction? I don’t want a sassy black girl — been there, done that ad nauseam– but she’s a bit perfect in every way which makes her a little boring. She also never realized that her so-called best friend is in love with her and has super powers — makes her seem a little self-absorbed. Candice is lovely, I like her a lot, but I think her character needs to find her purpose a little more. We don’t want a Laurel situation…

Shondaland: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder

The ladies of Shondaland!

We already know that Shondaland Thursdays has been knocking it out of the park. And we already know that Shonda Rhimes’ shows have always been champions for diversity as well as color-blind casting (both purposely casting people of color as well as not limiting non-specific casting to only white actors). And this season has been no different. Meredith Grey has a black sister (Kelly McCreary) on Grey’s Anatomy (which I no longer watch outside of the 5 minutes before Scandal comes on)! Scandal’s Olivia is trying to get past her romantic hang ups and finally choosing herself — though it looks like someone else wants to choose her too and kidnapped her to have her. Meanwhile, Joe Morton continues to give the best monologues on television while being deliciously evil! And while we’re all here for Viola Davis (and her manipulative ways) and Alfie Enoch (and his perpetual confusion) being our lead actors, surprise audience interest perhaps goes to Oliver (Connor’s bf played by Conrad Ricamora) and Detective Bae (I mean Nate) played by Billy Brown. All three shows have Image Award nominations, while Viola alone will hold down Shondaland at this year’s Golden Globes (though award for best giraffe goes to Alfie) for How to Get Away With Murder. When we return from hiatus, I can only imagine where these shows will go!

black-ish

black-ish cast

Say “hi” to several NAACP Image Awards

In the comedy arena, black-ish has been holding strong, being touted as ABC’s #1 new comedy this season (I think ABCs cancelled most of their other ones already…). It’s already snagged a few NAACP Image Award nominations for Best Comedy, Leading Actor and Actress in a Comedy, as well as some supporting actor and actress noms. The show is quickly finding it’s legs and allowing for more diverse conversations on race to happen on the show — my initial hesitance with it stemmed from a kind of one note portrayal of how black people should be (coming from Anthony Anderson’s character Andre), but I think as Dre learns that his family is still black no matter what they like to do or eat or play, hopefully America learns this lesson too. Shows like this are important in bringing different perspectives into the homes of those who may not (somehow) interact with black people on an even weekly basis. Plus, I am loving Tracee Ellis-Ross and young Marsai Martin is a scene stealer. She’s really going places. Keep a look out for a Black Girl Nerds podcast featuring some of the cast members of this show.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Look at this beautifully diverse cast!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been holding it down on Sundays. I still think it’s a terrible time slot and foolish to split up the comedies on the network, but it’s a great show that has been giving more and more focus to the two Latinas (Amy [Melissa Fumero] and Rosa [Stephanie Beatriz]) and the black men (Terry [Terry Crews] and Captain Holt [Andre Brauer]). Just looking at the cast photo, it’s really wonderful to see that not only does the show realize you can have more than one black person at a time, you can ALSO have more than one Latina person at a time. Very few other shows (outside of Shondaland) realize that. Not that it couldn’t be even better with some Asian, Native American, Indian or Arab representation; but even without, it’s doing much better than a lot of shows even on this list in terms of a wider range of diverse characters. Though it wasn’t nominated this year, I am still incredibly proud of it winning the Golden Globe for best comedy last year. And Andre Brauer has been getting more and more kudos for his hilarity even while playing the incredibly staid character of Captain Holt– he’s even been nominated for an NAACP award this year.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Cristela (Cristela Alonzo) is holding steady with a full season pick up! I haven’t been watching it, but it the few tweets I’ve seen about it say that it’s still pretty funny. Though I suppose your mileage may vary.
  • Fresh Off the Boat hasn’t premiered yet, but it will soon add some Asian representation to the network landscape.
  • Not really a network TV show, but I must say I am getting more and more excited for The Minority Report — I mean The Nightly Show Starring Larry Wilmore. I’m still sad they can’t use the title Minority Report…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iX6xoYMNJfw

We Still Have Some Work To Do:

Ted Grant Arrow

Gotta fight for better representation of your fello Latinos, Ted. I mean esse.

In less than stellar representation is Arrow (shame on you, one of my favorite shows this season!), for their portrayal of Latinos in one episode this season and for once again whitewashing R’as al Ghul (though your mileage may vary on whether having a brown person play this character benefits representation).

Sadly, John Cho’s Selfie was cancelled. I didn’t watch it, but the few who have are growing to love it before just as they watch it fall into the cancellation abyss. If you like, go #SaveSeflie over on Hulu! I must say that having an Asian-American get to play a romantic lead is awesome and hopefully Selfie’s downfall won’t stop future shows from casting Cho (or any other Asian actor) as their lead.

I feel like this is how we all look at Katherine Heigl…

State of Affairs was seriously underwhelming when I watched it, even Alfre Woodard (whose character is also named Constance) couldn’t compel me to watch episode 2 and its lukewarm reception leaves me wondering if it will survive its first 100 days on TV (I had to make a presidential joke, had to!).


That’s my TV midseason diversity check-in! I can’t watch everything on TV, so I may have missed some (didn’t a black character bite the dust on Agents of SHIELD? How’s Watson doing on Elementary or Michonne from The Walking Dead?) Some characters are on an upward swing, but others still have work to do. Either way, I am glad to see their faces and hope that there are more and more faces like theirs in seasons to come. The NAACP Image award television nominations had a lot of these actors (Viola, Gina, ), when last season they wouldn’t have had as many options, so there is some slow progress being made. The massive successes of especially How to Get Away With Murder and Jane the Virgin will hopefully finally show studios and networks that you can take a chance on people of color and unique storytelling and people will respond to it.

What other shows have PoC in them and how have they been treated this midseason? 

Jane the Virgin: Chapter One

Jane the Virgin might be my favorite new show of 2014, in addition to it’s fellow incoming sister show The Flash on the same network. Both shows know exactly what they want and aren’t afraid to give it to the audience. Jane the Virgin‘s narration is very Pushing Daisies with a telenovela twist, as I wrote in my initial pilot viewing, especially due to the “thirteen and a half years ago” and “8.2 miles away” specificity. I love the typography and the writerly feel to it (appropriate since Jane wants to be a writer when she’s ready to be brave [me too, Jane, me too]). Jane the Virgin stays true to it’s telenovela roots (based on Venezuelan shows “Juana le Virgen”) but is a fun, heartwarming, addition to network television. It’s diversity and it’s humor are two of it’s strongest assets and it displays both in the pilot episode. I think it plays well in not dumbing itself down for audiences, there are several moments where they could have telegraphed character relationships or backstories, but didn’t, in honor of believing the audience would catch up if they missed it. I think the show gets off to a great start, with strong, but believably flawed characters. I think reviews will be easiest by grouping characters together and exploring their stories in each episode.

Jane Villaneuva

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Link: How To Make It As A Black Sitcom: Be Careful How You Talk About Race

Link: How To Make It As A Black Sitcom: Be Careful How You Talk About Race on Huff Post Black Voices

Several people have sent this to me and I want to share it here. I haven’t been able to dissect it just yet, as it’s a long read, but it looks to be a really, really in depth piece discussing several decades of black sitcoms and comparing their successes and the ways in which they handle race. All of this as black-ish finds its legs and receives a full season pick-up.  There are some great graphs and discussion of a proposed “era” system of black sitcoms from the 50s until now.

 

Check it out.

Link: More Diversity in Prime Time: It’s Not Your Imagination – The Root

More Diversity in Prime Time: It’s Not Your Imagination – The Root

This article mostly talk about black-ish in the aftermath of it’s premiere yesterday, but it also spotlights Jane the Virgin, which I must say was probably my favorite pilot this fall. Check it out!

Also check out two more articles regarding blackish:
In ABC’s ‘Black-ish,’ everyone has racial issues [Washington Post]
Black-ish: “Pilot”: Don’t call it the black Modern Family [AV Club]

Link: Stephanie Beatriz on Why Diverse Casts Are Needed on TV | Latina Roles on TV & Movies

Stephanie Beatriz on Why Diverse Casts Are Needed on TV | Latina Roles on TV & Movies

Stephanie Beatriz on Why Diverse Casts Are Needed on TV | Latina Roles on TV & Movies

Everyone PLEASE read this awesome blog post by actress Stephanie Beatriz on Latina.com. I love Brooklyn 99, not only because it’s funny and it’s so similar to Parks and Recreation (same showrunner, so duh on that part), but because it’s so diverse and tries to actually look like a New York police station. The fact that there are TWO black men and TWO Latina women on the show feels like a first on network TV (psh, cable even) and it shouldn’t. But it is and the fact that Stephanie didn’t think she had another shot on the show after Melissa Fumero was cast is absolutely ridiculous but completely indicative of how the business works for people of color.

I am so glad that there are two Latina women on the show and the one is the main love interest and neither are made to be stereotypes of their culture, they just are and they don’t compete for men or attention, they coexist like real human beings. Just the fact that they’re both on the show and have such different personalities is fantastic because it immediately disproves the idea that people of color can only fulfill one type at a time on any given show. Brooklyn 99 just makes me really happy and I am glad that in this dwindling age of network comedy, it’s a beacon of hope for both a brilliant, hilarious show, but also for the future of what television will look like. I quoted Stephanie below, but click through for more of her blog posts.

When I was waiting to hear about my screen test for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I started looking at Deadline.com constantly. It’s a website that often posts up to the minute casting news, and is pretty handy during pilot season if you want to drive yourself absolutely bananas. I checked it, at minimum, eight times an hour. I was a woman possessed, because this show was the thing I wanted more than anything in the world. And then I saw that Melissa Fumero had been cast as Amy Santiago on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and I felt my guts roll up into my throat and try to escape out of my mouth. Omgomgomgomg that’s it then. There’s no way in hell a major network is gonna cast two Latina actresses in such a tight ensemble show I AM SCREWED.

And then next day my agents called and told me I’d booked it.

I couldn’t believe it. I had been saying to my boyfriend the night before how there was JUST NO WAY. Normally, The Latina is a singular element of the ensemble she is working in. She’s there to provide contrast, or sexuality, or humor. Or she’s there to clean the floors and/or steal your man. There are some serious stereotypes very much alive in film and TV today, and The Latina is one of them.

Here’s the thing though. The world is changing. Slowly but surely, television is changing. The character stereotypes are changing, or being turned inside out by some fantastic writers and actors (I’m looking at you, Orange is the New BlackScandal, and The Mindy Project). People of color are on TV playing roles that are fleshed out, complex, human. And yes, some of those characters are maids. Some are sexy heartbreakers there to steal your man. Some own BBQ joints, while some are Chiefs of Staff. Some are prisoners, and some are cops. All are real people with hopes, dreams, ambitions, fears, and all the other vast human emotions and desires.

Right now, you can turn on your television or log onto your Netflix or Hulu account and SEE YOURSELF. Not always, and maybe not as much as you’d like, but you can. You can find characters who look like you. I couldn’t do that very often when I was a kid, and it subtly informed me that I might be kind of unimportant. Thank God for Luis and Maria (Sonia Manzano and Emilio Delgado) on Sesame Street, who were the first Latinos on TV I ever saw. I was fascinated by them both, and remember thinking how lucky I was that my mom looked just like Maria. I watched Sesame Street into junior high, simply because I loved seeing Maria and Luis on TV. In fact, in my memory, PBS was one of the only places I regularly saw people of all races on my television.

This is important. Because young women are watching TV, and they are getting messages about who they are in the world, who the world will allow them to be. And in big important steps, television is showing a reflection back to those young women that YOU CAN BE WHATEVER THE HELL YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE, and that two Latinas on one show is NORMAL. I think that’s a win for everybody. 

–Stephanie Beatriz

ConStar’s Pilot Watch: Jane the Virgin

My favorite pilot for this season is Jane the Virgin. I love that it’s about a Latino family, I love that the grandmother only speaks Spanish (a reality they’re allowing to shine on TV), I love the characters and their relationships and where they’re taking their secrets, I love how funny it is, and how ridiculous it is at times, but also how real and loving. Most of all, I love the tellanovella narration.

I can’t stress enough how much I loved the narration. I think it’s so fresh and original. It reminds me of Jim Dale doing the Pushing Daisies narration. It fits tonally, adds humor, and gets exposition out in an innovative way. I’ve definitely never heard a tellanovella voice over before. It’s clearly inspired by the idea of tellanovellas and their ridiculousness (possibly inspired by an actual tellanovella?), but still doesn’t feel like too much a soap opera, even with soap opera plots (and camera work at times).

I already wanted to see it, but now I am really interested. It was definitely my favorite new pilot (since I’d already seen the Flash and knew the character). I really want this show to succeed and I really think that it will.

Verdict: It’s now definitely on my fall calendar, but when I’ll have time on Monday nights? I don’t know!

ConStar’s Pilot Watch: Cristela

I was wonderfully surprised by Cristela. It started off rough and I felt like my low expectations were being met during the first 20 seconds: Cristela walks in the room, her mother says something that’s not funny and the laugh track kicks in. It was a bad omen. I groaned aloud. I face palmed. But once it moved past forcing the first laugh, it legitimately made me crack up.

The character dynamics are on point; Cristela lives with her sister and brother-in-law, mother, and her niece (was there a nephew as well? I can’t remember). The mother was grumpy and old country, the brother-in-law hates Cristela, the sister is sexy and loves her family (clearly since she lets both her mother and her sister live in her house). Simple character traits that will define their relationships with each other and provide nice plotting.

Cristela, herself, is ambitious, but not easily so–it’s taken her six years so far to get through law school–but she’s in there and she’s not giving up. She likes sports (go Cowboys), makes friends with the adorable, inept Jewish fellow intern, and both stands up to but makes an effort to learn from her new (racist) boss. Which I hope they deal with a little better than they have so far, but they can’t squeeze everything into the pilot and most times in the world, you have to suck up people’s racism until you have the power to put them in their place–which she definitely doesn’t have yet.

The show is funny, so hopefully they don’t rely too much on forced laugh track gags like the very first one, and I think it has heart. Obviously it’s comparable to the George Lopez show, which I can’t remember well enough to really say if that’s going to help it or hinder it. The weakest part of the show was Gabriel Iglesias’ character—who seemed forced in because he’s a famous Latino comedian and who didn’t add anything to the show but weird sexual advances towards an uninterested Cristela. Hopefully they realize they don’t need his famous face.

Verdict: I was pleasantly surprised; I’m keeping it on my fall calendar.

Minority actors land the lead roles in fall’s diverse TV lineup | New York Post

Check out the Post’s article on the PoC led dramas coming this fall. And a few are led by women! Numbers are getting better, but no where near where they need to be.

The link and a couple of quotes below.

With “Scandal” commanding $200,970 per 30-second advertising spot, it’s a cash cow.“The color Hollywood loves the most is green,” says Wilmore. “Shonda Rhimes really showed that you can have a black lead in your thriller and you can have a great show. She broke down that wall, and Hollywood follows success.”

Hollywood definitely follows the money. Hopefully these new shows prove to be great television as well. The problem we’ve faced in the past has not always been a lack of content (well, yes, this is the problem, but) sometimes the content put out there isn’t good. There are a lot of times people of color will watch a show featuring someone of their background and that will boost ratings, but ratings will drop off if they don’t consider the show good. It’s not just about representation in numbers, but representation in quality and content. Don’t just give us a show with a black person and say it’s diversity, the content has to be good as well.

Rina Mimoun, executive producer of “Red Band Society,” says that, because of the Rhimes effect, “people will open up their casting. There’s no reason not to.”

More and more producers are realizing this, but things still aren’t where they need to be. The Emmy’s certainly showed that with the small amount of PoC nominees and smaller winners (most weren’t even televised). Hopefully, with this new crop of PoC led shows, next year’s Emmy’s will feature more PoC nominees and winners (now that Breaking Bad is finally out of the race; and maybe Emmy voters will finally be over Modern Family).

(In addition to these current shows, let’s not forget Sleepy Hollow, also led by a black female–I don’t think the article mentioned it.)

via Minority actors land the lead roles in fall’s diverse TV lineup | New York Post.

Link: This Is What Black People Watch And Don’t Watch On Premium Cable

This Is What Black People Watch And Don’t Watch On Premium Cable

Wow all sorts of great articles about black TV viewership and creation today!

This one is about black premium cable audiences. It seems that black people have higher percentages on black shows (new Starz series Power, The Wire and the short-lived No 1 Ladies Detective Agency–which I totally mean to watch one day, Jill Scott and mysteries?! Two of my favorite things!) and a lot of popular, mainstream shows with little to no diversity don’t make the top ten list. Game of Thrones, a show I know quite a few black people who watch, has 13% black audience, but I think that’s definitely not counting alternate means of viewership.

This Is What Black People Watch And Don't Watch On Premium Cable

This quote, about Power creator (who I am surprised but pleased to hear is a woman, considering what little I know about the show, I wasn’t expecting it): “Courtney Kemp Agboh — who, as a woman of color who is not Shonda Rhimes, is an extreme rarity.” It’s true. A black woman creator in scripted TV who isn’t Shonda? Shocker.

Check out the article and the percentages in the link at the top.

 

American TV shows might look more diverse, but their writers aren’t

I haven’t posted in a while, but posts like this need sharing as much as possible. We’ve made some strides in diversity on TV, but it’s not nearly enough for it being 2014. Let’s take the diversity we’re experiencing for the new fall season and support it and applaud it so that we see even more increases in the years to come. Definitely check out this article and share it!

Why it matters that FX’s ‘Tyrant’ didnt cast a Middle Eastern actor in its lead role

Why it matters that FX’s ‘Tyrant’ didnt cast a Middle Eastern actor in its lead role

Check out this Hit Fix article on new FX show Tyrant and the writer’s concerns about the lead actor, playing a Middle Eastern character, being cast as white.

That, friends, is why it is important that FX is premiering a new drama on Tuesday night in which the main character is an assimilated Middle Eastern man who leaves behind his life in the West and returns to the fictional nation ruled by his family.At least as a log-line, the part of Bassam “Barry” Al-Fayeed in FX’s “Tyrant” may not be unprecedented, but it represents a big enough deviation from the Hollywood norm and from the mainstream TV norm that it’s notable and worth discussion. And that’s why it’s not an insignificant problem that this role, this trailblazing step in Middle Eastern representation is being played by Adam Rayner, an English-born actor who is half-British, half-American and not Middle Eastern in the slightest.

[…]

In “Tyrant,” Al-Fayeed’s mother is, indeed, played by Alice Krige. That the potentate of a fictional Middle Eastern country was married to a white woman and had multiple children with her seems like something at least semi-worthy of discussion to me, but it’s never addressed in the first four episodes of “Tyrant.” Her mere presence is mostly an excuse for allowing Adam Rayner to play Bassam Al-Fayeed, as if casting an actor with no Middle Eastern heritage in TV’s only top-of-the-call-sheet Middle Eastern role would be bad, but casting an actor with no Middle Eastern heritage in TV’s only top-of-the-call-sheet *half* Middle Eastern role is totally halal. 

#sigh Even when roles are written for diverse characters, they find a way to make it acceptable to cast white instead of searching for someone with a more ethnic background.

 

You should definitely click through for more, because if I copy and pasted all of the really good points, I would just be copying the whole article. Check it out.

via Why it matters that FX’s ‘Tyrant’ didnt cast a Middle Eastern actor in its lead role.

Emmys: ‘Orange Is the New Black’s’ Uzo Aduba Makes a Plea to Voters Guest Column – The Hollywood Reporter

Emmys: ‘Orange Is the New Black’s’ Uzo Aduba Makes a Plea to Voters Guest Column – The Hollywood Reporter.

I’ve been neglecting this blog (and other writing) recently (life is getting super busy and I haven’t quite adjusted yet), but Emmy season is fast approaching and I hope to have more time to discuss shows as nominations approach in July.

So I may not be back, but I’ll hopefully post links to articles like this one. This one is especially important because it’s by a black actress making the case for diverse shows to get more Emmy recognition. Her show, Orange is the New Black, is of course an interesting contender: breaking out of the network and even premium cable mold, but it’s also female driven and has a lot of strong characters of color with increasingly important roles.

Check out the article and I’ll hopefully have more to share soon!

Highlights:

  • “The last series with a non-white cast to win the comedy Emmy was The Cosby Show in 1985.”
  • “The last woman of color to take the comedy actress prize was Isabel Sanford (The Jeffersons) in 1981.”
  • “Today, with the groundbreaking impact of Orange Is the New Black, it’s time for Emmy to not only redefine what a winning comedy is but also what “Emmy worthy” looks like.”
  • I love that she mentions Khadijah James (Queen Latifah) from Living Single.

Upfronts 2014: Black-ish

Could this be the return of the black sitcom?

This is the question on everyone’s minds as the Laurence Fishbourne/Anthony Anderson comedy gets slated for ABC’s post Modern Family time slot. It’s definitely a strong lead-in, both because of Modern Family’s consistently high ratings and Emmy nominations as well as being similar family programming. Check out the teaser trailer below:

Based on Barris’ own life (loosely), Black-ish will follow an upper-middle class black man, intent on raising his kids with some sense of cultural identity, in the face of an assault of constant contradictions and obstacles coming from various directions, insisting that his children be color-blind.

decided to do this project when I looked up and realized that everywhere I go I’m constantly the fly in buttermilk… I’m usually THE Black guy at work. We’re THE Black family in the neighborhood. My kids are basically THE Black kids at school. I think it’s kind of a situation of be careful what you wish for. It’s almost in like moving on up, I’ve sort of priced myself “out” of being Black,” said Barris.

The show makes me both excited and nervous. I’m excited to see a black family on television. I’m even more excited to see a black family in a single camera sitcom (has there been one? I can’t think of one  Everybody Hates Chris was one!). But oh boy am I nervous. As a person who is often not seen as black because of the things that I like and the way I speak and the education I got, and as a member of the Black Girl Nerds community and seeing a lot of other people who struggle with being called “oreos” or “not black” and often being the only black person in your work/school/extracurriculars, there are a lot of sensitive issues to deal with. As long as the show deals with being black in a middle class environment without the characters losing their identities as black people.

The title alone is a little worrisome–black-ish implies that through their middle class lifestyle, they’re not fully black, only a little black or sort of black. Just because they have Jewish friends or hang out in affluent neighborhoods shouldn’t take away from the fullness of their blackness. It sounds like the character “insisting his children be colorblind” means that 1. they accept everyone regardless of their background and 2. the struggle the father endures through the series is that the children should be allowed to be who they are and like what they like with it having no reflection on how “black” they are. That’s not the kind of colorblindness we should have, but is often the kind we get: accepting characters regardless of their color but erasing any ethnic identity they have. I don’t know if I am explaining things right or if it’s truly the measure of how I believe things should be. Again, it’s sensitive issues and hard to define or draw the lines, but hopefully the team behind the show address these issues with comedy and class. Maybe the title was just a catchy way to express what the show is about.

So I’m excited! I’ll definitely be checking it out; I hope it’s funny and strong and I hope I can relate to the characters, as their experiences already speak to mine. But I am also nervous.

 

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Upfronts 2014: Hieroglyph

Just how gorgeous is this image? (I love and wear gold eyeliner.) I’ve been excited about Hieroglyph since I heard about it for several reasons. Number 1 being diversity. From the trailer, the cast seems really mixed. Often, tales in Egypt get whitewashed (then tanned), but this story actually includes people of color. Exciting!

Also, I really like Ancient and Classic Antiquity (thanks wikipedia!) Egypt. Two reasons for this: The Royal Diaries book series, of which Cleopatra – Daughter of the Nile was one of my favorites to read and reread (I might just do that, for my other blog). And The Mummy (this one’s a bit more obvious and standard). I think this will be a cool show and will get to explore some lesser known mythologies, now that fairy tale and mythology shows are coming back into fashion. Of course I love the idea of it being a supernatural, fantastical story with mystery, action-adventure, and intrigue.

It’s not airing until 2015, presumably in Sleepy Hollow’s time slot (though I wish they were being paired together), but I can’t wait to check it out.

Watch the teaser trailer below:

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Phylicia Rashad on Modern Sitcoms via Clutch

Phylicia Rashad Isn’t Happy With The Current State Of Sitcoms | Clutch Magazine.

I love Phylicia Rashad. She’s so elegant and mature and statuesque. She’s a queen of 80s sitcoms and the queen of all black sitcoms, in my opinion. She has some observations on how modern television works in comparison to when she was in her heyday and things aren’t looking good. Writers are becoming more isolated, in her view, too scattered across the country.

Click the link to read more.

Link: Bringing Diversity to TV: Whose Job Is It? | Hyphen magazine – Asian American arts, culture, and politics

Bringing Diversity to TV: Whose Job Is It? | Hyphen magazine – Asian American arts, culture, and politics

To be frank, it’s a huge deal that she [Mindy Kaling] has her own show at all, and she’s undoubtedly broken lots of barriers and paved the way for more women of color to do the same thing. But if we can’t merely rely on more diverse creative teams to help us with more equal, more three-dimensional representation, who should we count on? Whose responsibility is it to bring more diversity to television?

Click through for more.

HBO Uses Hip Hop To Lure Black Audiences To ‘Game Of Thrones’ ~ Black Girl Nerds

HBO Uses Hip Hop To Lure Black Audiences To ‘Game Of Thrones’ ~ Black Girl Nerds

Jamie at Black Girl Nerds makes some excellent points and correlations, HBO needs to skip the “hip-hopification” and actually get some diversity both on their existing shows and upcoming ones. You can’t claim Issa Rae is coming to your network and call it quits.

I love that HBO got some nerd rappers to rap about nerdy stuff, but don’t use it to “appeal to black audiences” because that shows you don’t know how to appeal to black audiences. Check it out!

 

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New York Women in Film and Television Black Actresses on Screen Panel

NYWiFT PanelPanelists: (l-r) Ylana Kellar (moderator), Chenoa Maxwell, Sharon Hope, Neema Barnette, Rachel Watanabe-Batton (r on screen) Julie Dash (l on screen)

Last week, I was blessed to have been able to attend a NYWiFT Panel on the current state of black women on screen at Harlem venue My Image Studios (MiST). It was very inspiring and I got to watch Scandal afterwards with a room full of Gladiators. It was pretty amazing. Here are some of the questions and responses below (featuring general essence of their answers, with direct quotes from my notes).

The panelists for the evening were: Neema Barnette, Julie Dash, Sharon Hope, Chenoa Maxwell, and Rachel Watanabe-Batton with Ylana Kellar as the moderator. You can google them and check out their work like I have been. They’ve all been working in Hollywood trying to get the stories of black women told in the right ways and the things they had to say were very inspiring for all future black artists: whether actors, writers, directors, producers, any kind of black content creator.

The questions and answers are below as slides, click one and read through! These ladies were really inspirational and it was great to just be in a room with other like-minded people. Hopefully the roles portrayed by black actresses will continue to expand in number and in character dimension.

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TV #Diversity Pilots 2014 Trend: More Black Actors

TV Pilots 2014 Trend: More Black Actors.

With Scandal ruling primetime and star Kerry Washington becoming an awards season fixture, more pilots led by black actors are in the works this season.

These are some of the black actors getting roles in upcoming pilots: Viola Davis, Anthony Anderson, Kevin Hart, Craig Robinson, Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Jada Pinkett Smith, Octavia Spencer, & Halle Berry. This is a star studded list of people and doesn’t even include the actors from FOX’s upcoming Hieroglyph, who are less mainstream A-/B-list actors. It’s wonderful getting to see more faces of color on television, hopefully with stories that diversify the stereotypes often relegated to such characters.

Now we just have to hope these shows get picked up past their pilots, so we actually get to see them act in these shows.

 

Link: Who Creates Drama At HBO? Very Few Women Or People Of Color

Mo Ryan of the Huffington Post breaks down cable/premium channel lack of diversity (for both women and PoCs) in the last few years. The numbers are awfully lacking any kind of diversity. We think the networks are bad with this stuff and that premium/cable is the way to go, but their numbers are somewhat worse! Check the quote and click through for the article.

Audiences can and should take individual writers to task for problems they perceive in a given show. But as long as this debate is limited to individual dramas, and doesn’t consider the entities that commission and distribute them, the conversation is likely to go around in circles indefinitely.

via Who Creates Drama At HBO? Very Few Women Or People Of Color.

Doctor Who Season 8 Diversity Casting News

Samuel Anderson

Doctor Who Season 8 has just cast Samuel Anderson as a recurring character! This is particularly exciting as he is the first major companion-status character of color cast during the Steven Moffat Doctor Who era. Since Moffat began his tenure as showrunner, he’s gotten a lot of flack for a lot of different things, but maybe he’s trying to turn some things around? Besides some stand alone characters (particularly Amara Karan in “The God Complex” and Nina Toussaint-White in “Let’s Kill Hitler), there haven’t been that many characters of color with character development at all during the last few seasons, so it’s nice to see one cast now. Is Moffat just responding to criticism or was Anderson the best suited for the role and race wasn’t an issue? I hope it’s a bit of both. Steven needs to really change some things about the show’s plot, character development, and casting in order to keep hold of his very tenuous hold on his position as showrunner–people have been getting more and more fatigued with someone they once loved. I personally have tried to ignore some of the faults of the show in favor of simply enjoying it, but I’ve certainly understood the complaints. Hopefully the is the start of a new era of racial inclusion, at the very least.

BBC One – Doctor Who.

EDIT: Thanks Brian Davison for pointing out who I’ve missed in the past few seasons: Angie and Artie Maitland (the children Clara was a nanny for), Queen Nefertiti, the Van Baalen brothers. I did indeed forget them. But it is nice to have a major recurring character of color.

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