“We need to do better,” CBS Entertainment President Glenn Geller said at TCA in August in response to the lack of diversity among show leads and showrunners at the network.
As NPR’s Eric Deggans pointed out at the event: “Every lead is a white male, every showrunner is a white male and you’ve had years to fix this.”
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Now, CBS has launched the Drama Diversity Casting Initiative, a nationwide program to find new talent for current and upcoming series.
Part of the CBS Diversity Institute, the initiative is focused on increasing opportunities for people who belong to groups that have traditionally been underrepresented, including African American, Asian American, Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander, LGBTQ actors and performers with disabilities.
“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,” Geller said in a statement.
The program builds on CBS’ Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase, whose participants have included Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live), Justin Hires (Rush Hour, MacGyver), Geoffrey Arend (Madam Secretary), Eugene Codero (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), and Masi Oka (Heroes, Hawaii Five-O).
“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.”
The program seeks 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.”
Actors should “possess strong dramatic talent and a technical skill set,” according to CBS.
Between Thursday, October 13 - Friday, October 28, actors 18 years and older can submit a self-taped monologue via www.CBSDiversity.com. 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).
From there, 14 to 16 actors will be selected to travel to Los Angeles for a screen test that will be used for casting opportunities for current series, pilot season and future projects.
While the leads are all white for all of CBS’ new fall series, at TCA Geller noted Laverne Fox will will midseason entry Doubt as the first transgender actress playing a transgender role on broadcast network TV. Also launching midseason is comedy Superior Donuts starring Jermaine Fowler, and a drama based on the movie Training Day starring Justin Cornwell.
RELATED: Diversity Remains Topic on Everyone’s Minds After TCA