A new study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles finds that when it comes to racial diversity in television industry acting roles, the playing field continues to level for minorities, but there’s stubborn structural gridlock at the highest ranks and behind the camera.
The report finds that 24 percent of lead actors in television shows on broadcast networks are people of color. This is up significantly from the 2013-14 season when only 8 percent of lead roles were assigned to people of color. In cable television, 35 percent of lead actors are individuals from underrepresented groups.
Black actors held 11.6 percent of the leads in broadcast television shows and 14.1 percent of the leads in cable television shows. For all television roles, Blacks make up 18 percent of the actors on broadcast television shows and 18.2 percent of the actors on cable programming.
Despite recent gains in acting roles, Blacks and other underrepresented racial and ethnic groups hold only small percentages of producers, directors, and writers of U.S. television shows on all platforms.
“There has been a lot of progress for people of color in front of the camera,” said Darnell Hunt, dean of the division of social sciences at UCLA and a co-author of the report. “Unfortunately, there has not been the same level of progress behind the camera. Most notably in the executive suite, there has been very little change since we began compiling data five years ago. That’s very telling, particularly in light of our current racial reckoning.”
The full study, Hollywood Diversity Report 2020: A Tale of Two Hollywoods, may be downloaded here.