Starz, WGN America Stars, Execs Blast Industry’s ‘Frustrating’ Lack of Diversity

TCA 2016: “The old guard needs to let go of their grip a little bit. That’s not what the world looks like anymore,” says “Underground” star Jurnee Smollett-Bell

TV stars, showrunners and executives behind such series as WGN America’s “Underground,” Starz’s “Survivor’s Remorse” and El Rey’s “From Dusk ‘Til Dawn” expressed their annual frustration with awards season and the #OscarsSoWhite controversy during a wide-ranging panel discussion on diversity at the TCA summer press tour on Monday.

“I get bothered every awards season,” said “Survivor’s Remorse” actress Tichina Arnold. “We need more voters. We need more actors voting.”

Theresa Vargas Wyatt, vice president of corporate and brand development at El Rey Network, said she personally called and met with Academy CEO Dawn Hudson and gave her a list of names to be considered for membership.

“I said, ‘We have a problem, and I want to help you — I’m going to give you a notebook of Latinos,'” she said. “I think you have to be part of the solution. Yeah, it’s frustrating, but it’s also our responsibility to pull others up with us.”

Victoria Mahoney, who serves as showrunner on Starz’s “Survivor’s Remorse,” expressed frustration with the dismal numbers that come out every year regarding diversity statistics in the industry.

“I mentor a lot of young women of color, and their parents were now using those statistics to say to them, don’t go to film school to be a director or DP because there’s no jobs for you,” she shared. “The way the system is set up, in order to get a job, or get an award or to get to vote for an award, it’s all just old practices that don’t suit us at all.”

“The system is antiquated. The old guard needs to let go of their grip a little bit. That’s not what the world looks like anymore,” added “Underground” star Jurnee Smollett-Bell. “The fact of the matter is storytellers have a right to tell their stories, to express themselves … Viewers and audiences have a right to see themselves, point blank … We underestimate how important storytelling is.”