Black Showrunners Talk Diversity and Progress at the Paley Center

Deadline | 2/13/2018 | David Robb
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There was a time, not that long ago, when each of the six Black showrunners at tonight’s “They Run the Show” panel at the Paley Center were the only African Americans in the writers’ rooms they started out in. “I was the diversity,” laughed Power showrunner Courtney Kemp Agboh about her days breaking into the business.

“After I left Girlfriends, I didn’t work with another black individual for eight years,” said Insecure showrunner Prentice Penny. “Eight years!?” marveled several of his fellow panelists.

Point - Person - Room - Claws - Showrunner

“All of us, at one point, were the only black person in the room,” said Claws showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois. “But now it’s like this stage – like this room,” she said, looking out at the theater’s SRO and nearly all-Black audience.

And with more diversity in the writing and producing ranks has come more diversity in the portrayal of African Americans. Diversity, they all agreed, is not just about color or gender, but about a wider range of ideas and characters. “Diversity speaks to the human character, not just to their color,” said Star showrunner Karin Gist.

People - TV - Agboh - Clair - Huxtable

“There [are] so many people you can be on TV now,” Agboh agreed. “You don’t have to be Clair Huxtable” – the idealized wife on The Cosby Show.

“We don’t have to be one thing anymore,” Penny agreed. “We have three-dimensional characters, not just caricatures anymore.”

Discussion - Entertainment - Tonight - Nischelle - Turner

The freewheeling discussion, moderated by Entertainment Tonight’s Nischelle Turner, was peppered with witty and insightful observations about...
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