America Ferrera Exposes the Real Deal With Hollywood's Diversity Problem

May 24th 2016

Hollywood just doesn't get diversity, and it's frustrating actress America Ferrera.

In a guest column for Deadline, the actress called out Hollywood for its practice of racial tokenism versus highlighting true diversity.

"Tokenism is about inserting diverse characters because you feel you have to; true diversity means writing characters that aren’t just defined by the color of their skin, and casting the right actor for the role. Diversity is on everyone’s agenda today, but it’s something I’ve had to think about my entire career, because, in a way, it’s like the tax you pay for being a person of color in this industry."

Ferrera lamented that minority actors are often limited to race-specific roles. In other words, actors of color usually aren't considered for mainstream roles unless there is a part exclusively written for them.

​Ferrera shared her own experience fighting tokenism in the entertainment industry as a Latina actress, and that her lead role in NBC's "Superstore" was the first gig she scored that was not written specifically for a Latina.

"It thrilled me that it was being done in a way that wasn’t in any way token. It wasn’t about inserting the black character, or the sassy Latina chick, or the one-joke Asian dude. They went out and found funny people and cast them regardless of their skin color. But this is really rare."

Change in Hollywood comes from compromise, she explains.

"It also isn’t about shaming people into doing the right thing. It’s really about all of those people in positions of power—and they’re usually good people—asking themselves what they’re doing to change those narratives. I get the hesitation: everyone wants to get their stuff made, and you will always go down the path of least resistance in this business. But there is a middle ground to find, where you can tell your story without that kind of compromise."

Other actors have expressed the same feeling.

Comedian and "Master of None" actor, Aziz Ansari voiced the same sentiment last year while he was screening his new show at Entertainment Weekly Fest. The comedian exposed how Hollywood tends to typecasts actors of color as a way to fill diversity quotas.

aziz-ansariAP/Eric Charbonneau - apimages.com

"Look, if you’re a minority actor, no one would have wrote this show for you," Ansari told Vulture. “No one would have been like, 'Hey, how about we get Aziz to do this ten-episode show and have play this thoughtful character.' At best, they would just write something that’s a character based on the qualities people have seen already, like Tom [Haverford]."

Earlier this year, Hollywood received even more criticism when people used the hashtags #HollywoodSoWhite and #OscarsSoWhite to criticize Hollywood for the lack of opportunities facing people of color.

According to 2015 UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report roles for white actors outnumber those of minorities in film and television 2-1 and 6-1 respectively.

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