At this past summer’s Television Critics Association press tour, CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller was grilled with questions over his network’s lack of diversity in the fall lineup, where each new show features a white male as the star and none of which have any showrunners of color. It’s a question that comes up (with other networks, as well, not just CBS) at each press tour, and Geller was asked how, having been aware of the issue for a while now and having spoken on how things are going to change before, this could continue to happen, and how it can be changed.
Again, Geller said, “I am acknowledging we need to do better.” Maybe this time, a comment like that may mean something, as CBS announced today, about three months after that press conference, the launch of its CBS Drama Diversity Casting Initiative, which the network says is a nationwide search for new breakout talent for CBS’ current series and upcoming pilots. This initiative, which is similar to the network’s already-established Sketch Comedy Showcase, is part of the CBS Diversity Institute. Geller had mentioned at that conference that they “continue to put additional resources and financial support” into the Diversity Institute, so this Drama Initiative seems to follow on what he said.
According to CBS, the Drama Diversity Casting Initiative “is designed to reach untapped talent across the country, including areas with limited access to industry professionals, and bring them to the attention of casting executives and CBS showrunners, culminating with a Network screen test in Los Angeles.”
The casting initiative begins Thursday, Oct. 13, and continues through Friday, Oct. 28. Actors age 18 and older can submit a self-taped monologue via CBSDiversity.com. The initiative is focused on increasing opportunities for people who belong to groups that have traditionally been underrepresented onscreen, including African American, Asian American, Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander, LGBTQ actors and performers with disabilities. CBS says actors should “possess strong dramatic talent and a technical skill set.”
More from CBS:
“CBS casting executives will review all online submissions and make selections for regional callback auditions in Atlanta (Nov. 7-9), Austin (Nov. 3-4), Chicago (Nov. 2-4), Miami (Nov. 10-11) and San Francisco (Nov. 10-11), where the actors will rehearse with casting executives and be put on tape. Following these regional casting sessions, 14-16 actors will be selected to travel to Los Angeles for a Network screen test that will be utilized for casting opportunities for current series, pilot season and beyond.”
In a release for the Drama Diversity Casting Initiative, Geller said, “This outreach is a real opportunity for CBS to discover actors located across the country, outside of Los Angeles and New York, who haven’t had the chance to meet or be seen by network casting executives. We’ve had great success with our CBS Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase, which launched the careers of numerous actors, and we are confident this will do the same.”
Will initiatives like this be enough so reporters don’t have to continue asking the same questions about on- and offscreen diversity to network executives at regular press conferences? Perhaps not right away, but maybe it’s a start.