The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC) announced Sept. 17 that for the upcoming 2015-2016 season, ABC will reach a historic high of 20 Asian regulars on its primetime television series.
The previous record, held by NBC, was 16 in the 2007-08 season.
In addition to the return of “Fresh Off the Boat,” the alphabet network will debut “Dr. Ken” starring Ken Jeong, a second Asian American family show on the same network. Also, the drama “Quantico” will be headlined by Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra.
As far as the coalition can determine, no network has ever had three primetime series starring (first name in the credits) Asian actors.
“This marks a remarkable comeback for ABC,” said Daniel M. Mayeda, co-chair of the APAMC, which has met annually with the top four networks since 1999 advocating for more diversity and inclusion. “A few years ago, ABC had the lowest number of Asian Pacific Islander (API) regulars amongst the top four networks. Now, they’re the acknowledged leader in diversity and APIs are a significant part of that success story.
“This proves that with determined leadership, any network can turn its fortunes around. Congratulations to ABC President Paul Lee and his development and casting executives on this achievement.”
“Critics have called ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ one of the best comedies of the year, with many endorsing Emmy nominations for both the show and breakout star Constance Wu,” says APAMC member Miriam Nakamura-Quan. “When NBC’s ‘The Voice’ began its eighth season in the same time slot, ‘Fresh Off the Boat’s’ ratings remained the same. This meant the sitcom had actually drawn new audiences to watch television on Tuesday nights.
“What’s more, the press has cited ABC’s ‘Fresh Off the Boat,’ ‘Black-ish,’ and ‘How to Get Away With Murder,’ along with Fox’s ‘Empire,’ as the successful series that have led the way in reflecting the changing face of America — a reality finally seen from the viewpoint of people of color.”
Mayeda points out: “Nielsen data from the 2014-15 season showed that APIs in the coveted 18-49 demographic watched programs that featured Asian American prominently — like ‘Selfie’ and ‘The Mindy Project’ — at a disproportionately high percentage of their population. The first several episodes of ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ ‘over-indexed’ among API viewers by 168% to 218%, making them a destination for advertisers seeking to target the upscale Asian American consumers.
“What’s more, instead of turning off non-API viewers, African Americans and non-Hispanic whites watched ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ in proportion to their population, the latter making up 60% of its audience.”
Armed with data like this, the networks aggressively sought to include people of color in most of their pilots considered for the 2015-16 season. And the results reflect remarkable gains for APIs and other people of color in prime time.
The popular new AMC series “Fear the Walking Dead” stars Maori actor Cliff Curtis. In November, the cable channel will debut “Into the Badlands,” a fantasy/martial arts series starring Daniel Wu as the tough/mysterious hero, and Aziz Ansari’s new sitcom “Master of None” will premiere on Netflix. “The Mindy Project,” starring Mindy Kaling, will be shown on Hulu.
In addition to the aforementioned ABC series and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (featuring Ming-Na Wen), three out of the four major networks will broadcast series that feature APIs who are listed second in the credits. CBS has “Elementary” (Lucy Liu), “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” (Daniel Henney), and “Rush Hour” (John Foo); and Fox offers “Lookinglass” (Dilshad Vadsaria) and “The Guide to Surviving Life” (Meaghan Rath).
The CW’s upcoming “My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and Netflix’s second season of “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” will both feature Asian men in previously rare romantic roles. Steven Yuen continues to play the heroic/romantic Glenn Rhee character on AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” which has the highest number of viewers in the 18-49 demographic of any TV show, cable or broadcast.
The APAMC encourages everyone to support these shows and to watch the second season of “Fresh Off the Boat” on Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.; “Quantico,” which premieres Sunday, Sept. 27, at 10 p.m.; and “Dr. Ken,” which starts on Friday, Oct. 2, at 8:30 p.m.
APAMC has agreements with ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC committing them to work to increase diversity on-screen and behind the camera. APAMC members include such organizations as the Asian American Justice Center, East West Players, Japanese American Citizens League, Media Action Network for Asian Americans, National Federation of Filipino American Associations, OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Visual Communications.
API Series Regulars on ABC’s 2015-16 Series
Randall Park, Constance Wu, Hudson Yang, Forrest Wheeler, Ian Chen, Lucille Soong, “Fresh Off the Boat”
Karen David, “Galavant”
Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Yunjim Kim, “Mistresses”
Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, “Modern Family”
Carrie Ann Inaba, “Dancing with the Stars”
Simone Kessell, James Floyd, “Of Kings and Prophets”
Jay Hayden, “The Catch”
Priyanka Chopra, “Quantico”
Ken Jeong, Suzy Nakamura, Albert Tsai, Krista Marie Yu, “Dr. Ken”