This industry is all about trends. As an agent, it’s important for me to spot them as they start. Bears who don’t see winter coming end up starving.
There have been several trends over the last few years that have become game-changers. The abundance of self-taped auditions is one. Actors working as local hires is another. But the biggest change is the push for inclusion in all areas of casting.
This is especially true on television. The powers that be at the studios and networks have made it clear: They want more diversity on their shows. Every breakdown that crosses my desk stresses this today. Right now, it’s easier for me to pitch an African-American woman with no credits than it is to pitch a blue-eyed blonde from Juilliard.
This trend also extends to performers on the LGBT spectrum. For example, Nicole Maines was recently cast as TV’s first transgender superhero on the CW’s “Supergirl.” How cool is that?
Performers with disabilities are also getting some long-overdue attention. I happen to be a huge zombie freak; I’ll watch any show that involves shooting dead people in the head. So I’m thrilled to see Lauren Ridloff, a deaf actor, join the cast of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
All this progress in casting, however, brings me to the most disturbing trend of all: white people complaining there’s no work for them.
I’m not joking. This is 100 percent true—I hear it all the time. I keep running across Caucasian actors who whine about all the opportunities they’re missing out on because of their whiteness.
“This feels like reverse discrimination,” one will say. “There are fewer roles for actors like me,” says another. “I think this ethnic trend will change soon,” adds a third.
Listen up, white people. I’m going to ignore the underlying racism in your attitude so we can focus on reality. There are all kinds of people in this world, and the content we produce is best when it reflects that. Diversity is a good thing. And do you really, really believe there are no white characters left on TV? Take another look.
The most horrifying example of the subtle racism that has permeated my world is the well-known acting teacher who advised a Jewish student to change her name to something that sounds Hispanic. The teacher felt the girl could “pass,” and this would increase her chances of working. (I’m not going to name names, but a quick Google search will provide interested parties with the juicy details.)
But who knows? Maybe I’ve got this all wrong. White actors might have a point. I mean, think about it: All those ethnic, gender-fluid, disabled people have had it easy for a long time. And the current administration in Washington is definitely on their side. So do they really need more opportunities? Shouldn’t it be sink or swim? Why should one group take a step back so others can step forward?
Sometimes, I feel so weak needing to spell this stuff out….
If you happen to be a diverse performer, whatever that means, welcome to the party! This is your time to shine. And trust me: It’s not going to change anytime soon. The entertainment industry has taken a great turn and there’s no going back. So keep working on your craft and double your efforts to get seen by agents and casting directors. We’re all looking—and rooting!—for you.
Ready to get to work? Check out Backstage’s Los Angeles audition listings!