Kal Penn: Streamers Have Helped Diversify Entertainment

Kal Penn chats with Jake Tapper about diversity in streaming.
(Image credit: CNN)

Actor Kal Penn (House, Designated Survivor, Harold & Kumar) said he thinks that streaming services have helped diversify the entertainment industry, an industry with a history of typecasting minorities.

Penn was being interviewed by CNN's Jake Tapper about his new book, "Maybe I Do Have a Story to Tell," which includes stories about his being forced to adopt an Indian accent to get roles--he was born and raised in Montclair, NJ, and does not have an accent--some of which he turned down, others he took because he needed them on his resume.

He said of one casting decision that when he argued against a stereotypical accent he was told that he was lucky that people like him could work in the business.

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Penn said that over the intervening couple of decades, the industry has improved "by leaps and bounds" in addressing diversity, thanks more recently to OTT.

"I think one of the big things that has helped television and entertainment change for the better are the streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu," he told Tapper. "If you think about the content that they have, they are often times outside the purview of race or gender. They just make great, compelling characters that anyone wants to watch no matter what the characters are, no matter who we are."

A Nielsen diversity and inclusion report last January found that "the widest assortment of shows starring people of color was found on streaming platforms," and that streamed shows had either the most of the second most recurring characters who were Black, Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern or Native American.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.