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How ‘Sleepy Hollow’ Scored Latest Breakthrough for Asian Americans On and Off Screen

”It’s one of the happy results of what happens when you emphasize diversity at every level of the creative process,“ Showrunner Albert Kim tells TheWrap

Friday’s “Sleepy Hollow” episode, “Child’s Play,” will achieve something very few shows have before.

The episode was written and directed by Asian-Americans, on a show that already features an Asian-American female lead and is steered by an Asian-American showrunner.

That showrunner, Albert Kim, told TheWrap this wasn’t a deliberate plan, but a natural progression of what happens when diversity is made a priority in the industry.

“It wasn’t like it was planned that we set out to do an episode where a lot of the people involved were Asian-American,” Kim said. “It’s one of the happy results of what happens when you emphasize diversity at every level of the creative process. If you make sure to think of diversity both in front of and behind the camera, things like this will happen.”

“Sleepy Hollow” stars Janina Gavankar, who joined the show in Season 4, and the episode was written by Francisca Hu and directed by Michael Goi, both newcomers to the series.

For Hu, it’s her first ever produced TV episode, having joined as a staff writer on “Sleepy Hollow” after being mentored by Kim while working in a different industry. Goi previously directed episodes of shows including “Pretty Little Liars” and “American Horror Story.”

Of recent shows that has also seen such a confluence of Asian-American artists, examples include Nahnatchka Khan’s “Fresh Off the Boat,” starring Randall Park and Constance Wu, with a Season 2 episode written by Kourtney Kang and directed by Henry Chan; and Netflix’s “Master of None,” where showrunner and star Aziz Ansari has written and directed multiple episodes himself along with writing partner Alan Yang.

ABC’s “Dr. Ken” has also featured Asian-American writers and directors working on the same episode and star Ken Jeong is also an executive producer on the series, though not the showrunner.

According to a recent UCLA study, diversity in front of and behind the camera makes business sense for the film and TV industry, though non-white talent both in front of and behind the camera continue to struggle to get hired.

It’s something Kim has been cognizant of in his career, and especially now as a person in a position of power when it comes to hiring and casting.

“I think it’s very important, I take the responsibility very seriously,” he said. “It’s something that I was keenly aware of when I was coming up through the system. Making sure that there are people of color at all stages of the creative process. I was able to see firsthand the impact that different points of view could have in the creation of the final product. Having writers with diverse backgrounds gave you different viewpoints all the way back to when you’re breaking story. And when you’re talking about characters, especially, you want a wide range of voices and experiences to help fill out the story process.

“Not to say this is their only responsibility, but Francisca, for example, was instrumental in making sure we got details correct in other episodes, not just the one she wrote, because of her background and experience, and I do the same thing, and I’ve done the same thing throughout my career.”

“Sleepy Hollow” airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox. See above for an exclusive clip from this week’s episode,”Child’s Play.”