Main Cast Representation for People of Color on TV Achieves Parity for First Time, UCLA Study Finds

However, proportions of leads for people of color in digital shows slightly decreased

Ramona Young, Lee Rodriguez and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan in "Never Have I Ever" (Netflix)

Over the course of the 2021-2022 TV season, the most progress for diversity across cable, broadcast or streaming series was found in main cast representation for people of color, according to UCLA’s 2023 Hollywood TV diversity report.

While people of color achieved or exceeded proportionate representation as main cast actors across all platforms during the 2021-22 season, the study found that people of color were largely limited to supporting roles, and did not extend to increasing proportions of leads for people of color in broadcast or digital shows.

Whereas the share of people of color in lead roles grew in broadcast and cable scripted series as compared to the 2020-2021 season, the share of people of color in digital scripted leads declined slightly since last year, as last season’s 37.6% share dwindled to 35.9% this season, meaning that only 3.6 out of 10 lead actors in digital scripted TV are people of color.

Among both main cast roles, the largest gains in representation were made among Black actors, with the report finding that Black actors were overrepresented in broadcast, cable and digital scripted casts in 2021-22 while Latinx and native people remaining underrepresented in all platform types. Asian people were underrepresented in broadcast and cable scripted casts while reaching proportionate representation in digital scripted shows.

The same can be said for lead actors, as Black people stood out as the only group that exceeded proportionate representation among leads across all platforms during the season. During the 2021-2022 season, Native people achieved proportional representation as leads of digital scripted shows, but were absent altogether among broadcast and cable scripted leads.

As compared to last season, lead roles for women decreased among cable and digital scripted shows, while continuing to grow in broadcast scripted shows.

Behind the camera, women and people of color saw representational progress as TV creators for broadcast and cable scripted shows, despite both groups’ percentage share remained stagnant when it came to scripted digital shows. Both women and people of color remained underrepresented as TV creators as a whole, with evidence supporting the pattern that women and people of color receive smaller budgets than series created by white men.

During the 2021-22 season, cable scripted series delivered the highest share of TV creators of color with a 29.5% share, whereas people of color accounted for 23.2% of broadcast scripted creators and 25.5% of digital scripted creators.

Representation for women and people of color among writers saw slight progress across all platforms, though still only 3.8 out of 10 credited writers in digital scripted TV are people of color.

For directors, the percentage share of directors of color advanced across all platforms, with people of color directing 30.9% of broadcast episodes, 39.6% of cable episodes and 31.6% of digital episodes. For comparison, women directed 37.2% of broadcast episodes, 38.3% of cable episodes and 37.2% of digital episodes. The percentage of female directors posted gains, with exception of cable episodes, which remained stagnant from last year.


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