Sunday, August 01, 1999

African-Americans talk about TV flap

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Here are what African-Americans are saying on the TV critics' summer press tour about the lack of racial diversity on TV this fall:

        • Cincinnati native Rocky Carroll (Chicago Hope, Roc, The Piano Lesson, Crimson Tide): “Once the NAACP made its statement (July 12), I got a lot of calls from TV shows without black characters asking, "Hey, would you like to do a guest shot so we can get a little heat off of us here?' I found that very funny. That's the way they deal with it.”

        • Roy Campanella II, writer, director, executive producer (Life Goes on, Wiseguy, Body of Evidence, BET Arabesque Films) and former CBS movie development staffer: “At CBS, I worked on 25 movies-of-the-week. I sat around that conference table, and I saw very talented African-American actors during our casting discussions being overlooked. Sometimes I was a very lonely voice in that room, mentioning talent that was basically being denied an opportunity.”

        • Halle Berry, actress who stars in HBO's Introducing Dorothy Dandridge Aug. 21: “I have not been able to find a project that can even compare to the role that I've just been able to play. So that's how I'm sure there's no place for a black leading lady right now. But I think it's changing.”

        • Bryant Gumbel, CBS News: “Any time you have a prime-time schedule that not only doesn't reflect the percentage (of minorities) in America, but is virtually lily white, I think it's shameful and inexcusable.”

        • Ralph Farquhar, executive producer and co-creator of Moesha and its spin-off, The Parkers, and a former writer for Happy Days and Married... with Children:

        “It was a bad, bad year (for minorities on TV). The honest answer is, there's never been a particularly good year. And so when you have four or five of the seven networks making a complete about-face, it becomes ludicrous ... The airwaves are for all of us ... It's ridiculous.”

        • Delroy Lindo, actor (Malcolm X, Crooklyn, Get Shorty): “There seems to be a dearth of roles and parts for actors of color ... and that can be deeply, deeply frustrating.”

        • Robert Johnson, BET chairman and CEO: “If I'm a network executive, who's probably white ... and I'm going to launch a show that I think advertisers will like because it will deliver a white audience that the advertisers value more, I'm not going to go and try to do something risky and creative with black people and white people.

        “I'm certainly going to stay away from black-and-white sex, so that takes out any romance stories involved with black men and white women. I'll probably take out any show that shows a black man as a dynamic businessman, sort of lording over white people, because that's going to offend the angry white male.

        “And you go on and on ... and pretty soon the guy says, "OK, let's do Seinfeld in New York with no black people.' And it turns out to be a great hit, and there ain't no black people.”

        • Michael Warren, actor (Hill Street Blues, CBS' City of Angels black medical drama): “If you're asking the same question that was asked 22 years ago, there's something that needs to be done.”


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