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Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Study: Blacks, Latinos Landing More Acting Work

By Jesse Hiestand

August 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Reuters/Hollywood Reporter. All rights reserved. 

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The number of roles for black and Latino actors increased last year, propelling the share of minority actors to record levels, according to an annual diversity report released Thursday. ? 

Women over 40 also made gains, but Asian-Pacific Islanders and Native Americans stagnated or lost ground, said the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) study.

Together, the four racial minority groups accounted for 24.2% of all theatrical and television roles last year, a 2.1 percentage-point gain over 2001.

"We look forward to the day when all of the employment statistics truly reflect the American scene in realistic and positive ways," SAG president Melissa Gilbert said.

While only adding 39 roles, a gain of 1.1 percentage points, blacks accounted for 15.5% of all roles, exceeding the black population of the United States, which stands at a little less than 13%.

"It's encouraging to see an increase in the number and overall percentage of on-camera opportunities in film and television, but we still have a long way to go," said Kweisi Mfume, president and chief executive of the Natl. Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. "The opportunity deficit that exists behind the camera still cries out for attention. In an absence of persons in key positions who can make real decisions or greenlight projects, progress is virtually nonexistent."

Latino actors got cast in 379 additional roles last year, bringing their share up to 6%, a 1.2 percentage-point increase that was largely attributed to advances in episodic television. Latinos account for 13.6% of the U.S. population.

"Are we satisfied with these gains? No," said Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. "It's better than it has been, so I guess we should be a little bit grateful. But if you consider how far they have to go to be equitable with us, I still have to be strong about the fact that for us, it's been generations of actors we've lost because we haven't been able to find employment."

Native Americans' share dropped to 0.2% from 0.37%.

Asian-Pacific Islanders made no gains last year and still account for 2.5% of total roles.

"It's worse than what the numbers show because not only do we feel that the networks have not made significant, if any, progress on roles for Asian Americans, but we also believe that the quality of roles, which the SAG report doesn't cover, is also very bad," said Karen Narasaki, who chairs the Asian American Media Coalition. "At best, they are guest roles with the exception of a handful of shows."

Narasaki said her group, the NAACP and Latino and Native American groups are continuing to work with the networks to improve diversity on TV.

Said CBS in a statement: "There is still much progress to be made on diversity, and we are committed to doing so. But we are proud of our efforts so far, including our partnership with SAG on the Diversity Talent Showcases singled out in their report."

SAG also said it has enhanced its partnership with the ABC Entertainment Television Group through the ABC Casting Project, which gives people of diverse backgrounds an opportunity to showcase their talents to creative and casting executives of ABC Entertainment and Touchstone Television.

"We're so happy that we're part of a process that seeds the entertainment industry with some really great talent," said Carmen Smith, vp talent development at ABC Entertainment Television Group.

Added Fox Broadcasting Co.: "Fox is proud of our efforts to promote diversity both in our executive and creative ranks, and we will continue to strive for improvement in the future."

The report, based on all television and theatrical productions (excluding commercials and animation) reported to the guild via casting data reports, also breaks down the numbers by gender and age.

Women 40 and over got 29% of all female roles, a 2 percentage-point increase over last year. At the same time, women received 38% of all roles, while they represent more than half of the U.S. population. The latter statistic has not changed much in recent years, and men were said to work 68% more days than women.

About 72% of roles go to those under the age of 40, and older women were found to face greater challenges than older men in finding roles.

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