Magazine article Variety

Pilots Are Looking Different This Year

Magazine article Variety

Pilots Are Looking Different This Year

Article excerpt

ABC knew going in to the casting process for its drama pilot "Runner" that it was looking for a Latino leading man, as specified in the script. But the female lead role had no racial or ethnic specificity.

Paula Patton, an African-American actress, landed the role of a woman whose life is ripped apart when she learns her husband, played by Adam Rodriguez, is wrapped up in a Mexican gun-running cartel.

"Runner" is but one example this pilot season of a surge of minority actors landing starring roles in prospective new series. Industry insiders say there's an undeniable openness to African-American, Latino and Asian thesps on the heels of the success ABC and Fox have had with shows led by diverse casts.

TV executives have talked for years about the need for the airwaves to reflect the growing cultural diversity of America. But the 2014-15 television season has marked a turning point in the embrace of diversity as a business strategy. Fox has fielded the biggest network TV hit in years with "Empire," a soap with a largely African-American cast. ABC has scored with Viola Davis leading "How to Get Away With Murder" and the family comedies "Blackish" and "Fresh Off the Boat."

Such hits prove that broadcast TV in particular can no longer afford to ignore the value of discrete racial and ethnic groups. The role of "How to Get Away With Murder's" Annalise Keating was not specifically envisioned for an African-American actress, but the casting of Davis undoubtedly helped generate sampling among black viewers - a demographic group that has boosted the overall turnout for the show. …

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