Hollywood Figures Urge Talent Agencies to Diversify


A multi-ethnic coalition of advocacy groups is calling on Hollywood’s talent agencies to meet to discuss how they can work together to increase representation of people of color.

Talent firms remain a major barrier to full inclusion of the nation’s diversity in television and film. According to the 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report by UCLA’s Bunche Center for African American Studies, “minority talent remained underrepresented on every front at the dominant agencies,” as directors, leads, creators, and writers in film and television.

That is a problem, given the “tremendous influence” major talent agencies wield, which continues to “shape the labor market of the film and television industry,” the report said. Without representation, especially in the top talent firms, people of color are denied a fair chance at advancing their careers in the entertainment industry.

Edward James Olmos, George Takei

Edward James Olmos, George Takei

The coalition, which includes American Indians in Film and Television, Asian Pacific American Media Coalition, NAACP Hollywood Bureau, and National Hispanic Media Coalition, will be contacting major talent agencies for meetings to discuss their diversity efforts.

Since 1999, the coalition has met annually with the top four television networks — ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC — pushing for better inclusion of minorities both in front of and behind the camera to more accurately reflect the reality of America’s diverse population.

Prominent entertainment industry figures of color urged the agencies to meet with the coalition.

“It’s long past time for Hollywood talent agencies to get it right and tap into the incredible talent pool of Latinos and other people of color that has always existed. I urge the agencies to work with the experts on diversity, the Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition, to move the needle on inclusion.” — actor Edward James Olmos

“Despite demographic changes and technological advances, talent agencies are still in the Dark Ages when it comes to providing and casting people of color in general, and that is totally unacceptable. We challenge them to enter the 21st century of reality, and the Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition stands ready to work together, shoulder to shoulder, to help them not only change that negative dynamic, but to be inclusive of the reality and present make-up of American audiences and performers.” — Sonny Skyhawk, founder of American Indians in Film and Television, and 37-year member of the Screen Actors Guild

“Although the major talent agencies are located in Los Angeles, the most diverse city in the world, they seem largely unaware of the amazing talent that exists in communities right under their noses. They should partner with these coalitions for their mutual benefit: more representation and jobs for Asian American and other actors of color, and more dollars for the agencies.” — actor George Takei

“We live and work in more demographically and culturally diverse towns and cities. It is time that those in front of the cameras and behind them represent and reflect present day communities. We’re calling on the agencies to recognize the changes from the communities to the viewing audiences and change business as usual to include more people of color on your teams, in your pitches, on the screens and behind the scenes. Diversity isn’t just good business, it’s the only business and should be reflected everywhere in Hollywood.” — Robin Harrison, NAACP Hollywood Bureau

The Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition’s call to meet with the talent agencies comes after entertainment industry outlet Deadline Hollywood ran an offensive article on the casting of people of color on television shows.

The article included quotes from unnamed talent agents who seemed more inclined to complain about fewer opportunities for their white clients than seeking to expand their talent pools to include qualified people of color. This prompted a widespread community outcry, including a number of Hollywood celebrities of color who took to Twitter to speak out against the article. Deadline issued an apology on March 29.



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