Reginald Hudlin on Oscar Diversity: ‘This Is Absolutely a Priority for Us’

Show producer tells TheWrap the Academy is more inclusive than ever

Reginald Hudlin

Reginald Hudlin was in the middle of a liver transplant when he got word he’d been chosen to produce this year’s Oscar telecast.

“I’ve been shooting this new medical series for NBC [“Heartbreaker”], and we do all the surgical scenes on the last day. I was doing a liver transplant… and all of the sudden my phone starts vibrating like crazy,” Hudlin told TheWrap.

“I’ve done a few exciting things in my career but nothing has generated this much enthusiasm this quickly.”

Hudlin and veteran producer/executive David Hill will tackle this year’s live show come February 28, taking the reins from Craig Zadan and Neil Meron after a three-year stint.

“David and I have so many of the same sensibilities…  so we’re saying ‘Here are the challenges of the Oscars.’ And you can’t start solving those problems by saying ‘This is the way we’ve always done it.’”

A snag for last year’s telecast was “#OscarsSoWhite,” a social media outcry after all 20 acting categories were occupied by white stars.

Hudlin, a prominent African-American director and executive producer of the NAACP Image Awards since 2012, said the Academy didn’t take that criticism lightly.

“The Academy has worked really hard in the past year to bring the largest number of members ever, and the most diverse ever,” he said.

In June, AMPAS announced 322 new members with 25 percent being female. Fewer than 20 new African-Americans were invited, as well as roughly 14 Asian and Pacific Islanders and only a handful from Latin America.

“This is absolutely a priority for us — but it’s not just a matter of a black person, a latin person, a gay person or a woman,” Hudlin said.

“When you celebrate all kinds of movies, when we embrace everything that we love even though it might not be a traditional Oscar movie, that automatically brings diversity. And that makes things more reflecting of the real audience.”

The 88th Oscars will broadcast live on ABC from Hollywood’s Dolby Theater on February 28.