My Favorite New TV Characters From the ’14-’15 Season

I fell in love with an extraordinary number of new characters this TV season. Looking back in the ones I loved or connected with the most, I decided I’d make a list of my favorite new characters from this TV season. Once I made my list, I realized that they were all people of color. This was not on purpose, but it delights me greatly.

Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) ⇒ The Flash

When Caitlin and Cisco guest starred in Arrow on season two, I didn’t care about them. I couldn’t really grasp who they were or connect with them at all. Once The Flash started, however, they quickly came into their own and Cisco proved to be one of the seasons funniest and savviest characters. I think what draws me to Cisco is the same thing that draws me to characters like Abed Nadir from Community or Kenneth the Page from 30 Rock. All of these characters are like me: pop culture savvy, people who make references to movies and TV on a daily if not hourly basis and are always looking for the hope and the humor in life. Cisco, by nature of his pop culture obsessed nature, is one of the meta characters on the show, the fact that he has recently been revealed to be a metahuman makes that even more meta. All things I love.

How do you not love him?

Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli) ⇒ iZombie

iZombie’s Ravi is the most recent addition to this list, but definitely a character I want to protect at all costs. (Being that it’s a zombie show, all characters run the risk of dying, but don’t do it to Ravi!) I think what first struck me about Ravi was his loyalty. He meets Olivia Moore, this weird girl who used to be an ER doctor, and when he discovers her secret, he doesn’t tell anyone, not even her. He vows to keep her secret and help find a cure for zombieism with no personal gain. His immediate loyalty to both her and Major is extremely endearing. He’s also snarky, has fantastic hair, a great accent, and looks great in a suit. I hope season two provides for Ravi backstory and opportunities for Liv and Major (and Peyton?) to return the loyalty favor.

We’re glad you are, Ravi.

Maggie Pierce (Kelly McCreary) ⇒ Grey’s Anatomy

It’s hard to introduce a new character when your show is 11 seasons in, but Grey’s Anatomy manages to consistently add new characters and have fans come to love them. One of the first things I loved about Maggie was her hair. As a natural black girl myself, seeing curls like hers on TV is always a delight. I was hesitant about her character, as she was introduced so soon around Cristina Yang’s exit—I feared they would try to replace Cristina in Meredith’s life, especially once you find out she is her sister. And while Maggie is slowly plugging the hole that Cristina (and now Derek) left in Meredith’s life, she isn’t trying to replace her. She is her own character who interacts with Meredith in a different way, a way that Meredith needs now that she’s lost those who were previously so close to her. Maggie brings loyalty (have I mentioned I love loyalty in fictional characters? Because I do.), a willingness to be there no matter what the question (her offer to babysit Mer’s kids), and a somewhat normal family background. She’s also awkward, nerdy (she’s an expert crossword puzzle solver—a cruciverbalist), and she’s interested in helping other people. These are all wonderful qualities and I can’t wait to get to know Maggie more.

You’re too good for this hospital, Maggie. Save yourself!

Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) ⇒ Jane the Virgin

Ask anyone who’s seen Jane the Virgin and they will extol the wondrous and many virtues of Gina Rodriguez. You’ve probably seen the think pieces, her Golden Globes speech, and her (amazing) Emmy campaign poster by now, so you know that she and her character Jane are well loved across the TV fandom. Nearly everything about Jane makes me love her (even her faults, because they are things I relate to), but the things that I might love most include the fact that she’s a writer (who is still trying to figure out her writing path), she’s loving to her mother and grandmother, she’s funny, she shops at Target, and she fearless even in her insecurites. Even if Jane is unsure, she determines to find out the answer, to become sure. She does her research, but she also listens to her heart. She allows herself to cry and still know that she is strong. She’s a great model for young female characters. I am so glad we have Jane.

I hope we get more rapping Jane in Season 2.

Diane Johnson (Caila Marsai Martin) ⇒ blackish

Kids on TV are hard to cast. Sometimes they can be seen as annoying or too sweet or unrealistic. blackish’s Diane Johnson defies these challenges. She’s cute but she’s smart, she’s fierce but she’s relatable. She’s funny but not in an annoying way. I love that Diane speaks her mind. That she’s smart and knows it and doesn’t back down or apologize for it. I love that she realistically puts down her twin brother, but won’t let anyone else mess with him. I love that she scares Charlie. Also I love her dimples and her sass and her glasses and the way her hair is different in every episode and that once they even put her in a headscarf (because Lord knows she’d need to wear her headscarf in order to keep those barretts in place at night). Diane is shaping up to be a fantastic person and I am so excited to see her grow older.

Love how semi-neatly she’s making it rain. 

Emery & Evan Huang (Forrest Wheeler & Ian Chen) ⇒ Fresh Off the Boat

I think Evan and Emery Huang come as a package deal for me. They’re both adorable and it would be easy for them to be written similarly (especially in their contrast to Eddie and especially due to their closeness in age), but the show gives them distinct personalities that still have an opportunity to shape and grow.

Emery gets all the girls and is clearly sweet to them and his family.

Evan uses his cuteness to get away with everything, including his sharp tongue, and he’s well aware that that’s what he’s doing.

Both boys are smart and funny, the actors have excellent comedic timing. I can’t wait to see who they become as characters because they’re so young that they can still change and grow depending on the writing.

Who were some of your favorite new characters this TV season? 

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ConStar Clicks

Wow, I’ve really been slacking on these haven’t I? And I’m going on vacation next week, so there likely won’t be one next Friday. But no one seems to read these so, raise your hands if you care and I’ll be more consistent.

Anyway, here are a few interesting things I’ve come across this week!

Ω I watched the below TEDxTalk on television as social conscience. I found it of course to be true (television both reflects and changes our society) and I appreciated Lauren Zalaznik’s research in investigating how people felt about the television they were watching and how that changed over time. Seeing the graphics she presents with the rise and fall of comedy vs judgement and the other comparisons she makes with the knowledge of the socio-political issues we know happened during those eras really puts things into perspective. It’s about 15 minutes, check it out if you can.

Ω I really liked this interview in Color Web Mag with writer Sanjay Shah who writes for Fresh Off the Boat. I love that show so much! I’m glad it’s getting the spotlight it deserves. And I hope it leads to more colorful families on TV and that networks aren’t satisfied with having Fresh and blackish fulfill the diversity quota that we always seem to be limited by.

Ω Lilla Zuckerman writes on the Save the Cat website on different kinds of television act breaks that you can look for when watching TV or use when writing it. I’ll definitely have to come back to this page.

Ω And just for fun: Hundreds of boxes of Twizzlers spill onto Pennsyvania highwayRostraver Central Fire Department

ConStar Clicks

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.

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? 

ABC Heralds Diverse Lineup Of Shows At TCA

“Let’s not pretend we’re there yet,” when it comes to the television industry accurately reflecting the demographics of America, ABC president Paul Lee said at the Television Critics Association press tour Tuesday. “I think we’re taking a very good step along that journey. But to be able to pull this off, you need not just stars on air […] [y]ou need the storytellers and you need the executives. I’m very proud of the fact that if you look at the executives who do development and do programming and marketing, across ABC, it’s a very diverse group of people.

via ABC Heralds Diverse Lineup Of Shows At TCA.

Seems like the president of ABC, Paul Lee isn’t trying to say they’ve reached Diversity (yes, capital D) on TV just yet, despite ABC’s wide selection of both supporting actors, leads, and full series that feature diverse families as the lead (though not sure how I feel about Asian “clan,” you already used family twice, either use three different words for family or all the same. Anyway–). It’s nice to see that ABC isn’t trying to say they’ve won anything or that there isn’t more work to be done. There definitely is.