TCA16: Diversity Panel Goes Deep From Executive, Director, Talent POVs

Get complete coverage of the 2016 TCA Summer Tour.

Beverly Hills, Calif.—Eight panelists affiliated with shows on El Rey, Starz, TV One and WGN America tore into the multifaceted issues of TV diversity during a vibrant, insight-packed panel at the TCA summer press tour.

El Rey founder and chairman Robert Rodriguez delivered a brief introduction to the session. “Cable has made great strides,” he said. “There’s never been a more important time to build cultural understanding of people and working together.”

Panelists spent ample time talking about the positives — more shows with diverse casts on air, multiplying outlets, more people of color involved behind the scenes — but also brought to light the ongoing struggle to reflect America in full.

“The way the system is set up, in order to get a job or be able to vote on awards, it’s all just old practices that don’t suit us at all,” said Victoria Mahoney, a director with credits on feature films as well as TV series like Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse and OWN’s Queen Sugar.

“The old guard’s got to let go of their grip a little bit because that’s not the way the world looks,” said Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who stars on WGN America’s Underground. “Storytellers have a right to express what’s inside of them … and consumers and viewers have a right to see themselves.”

Mahoney noted that she is among the 4% of overall directors who are women of color, according to recent guild surveys. “I’ve never been in the bottom 4% of anything in my life,” she quipped.

D’Angela Proctor, senior vice president of original programming and production for TV One, said the executive suite is another area with a lot of room for improvement.

“We have to be at the table at every single level” for truly inclusive programming to permeate the TV business, she said.