Scandal star Kerry Washington and actor-comedian Aziz Ansari sat down to discuss the hot-button issue of diversity both in Hollywood and across other industries as part of the fourth season of Variety and PBS’ “Actors on Actors” series.
“I saw this chart in the New York Times about like decision makers — the gatekeepers in every single industry — and it was like all white people,” said Ansari, who stars in and serves as showrunner of the new Netflix series Master of None.
The way Washington sees it, the lack of diversity both in front of and behind the camera in Hollywood is representative of the dilemma facing every industry in America.
“[The New York Times chart] came out after #OscarsSoWhite and I loved that they did it because there was all this attention on Hollywood but it was like no no no, every industry is so white,” Washington said.
In the two-minute preview from the series’ forthcoming episode, the two actors asked each other why TV programming tends to feature more minorities than films.
“I feel like everybody’s talked so much about how there’s more diversity on TV than in film. I don’t understand why. Do you?” Washington asked Ansari.
“I don’t know,” said Ansari. “If I had to guess I feel like there’s more diverse creators.”
Ansari explains how he and Master of None co-creator Alan Yang (Parks and Recreation) decided to cast their show by giving their ethnically diverse group of friends roles in the series.
“Our show, it’s Indian guy, Asian guy, so there’s going to be more Indian people, Asian people,” Ansari said. “We have a diverse group of friends and we didn’t even really think about it when we were making the show that ‘oh this is diverse.’ We were just like this feels real.'”
When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its nominations in the four main acting categories and included no non-white actors for the second year in a row, social media erupted. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite went viral online, putting pressure on Hollywood executives to put a positive spin on the wall-to-wall negative press coverage. The 88th Academy Award was hosted by comedian Chris Rock, who rubbed the very public accusations of racism and sexism in the faces of the sanctimonious celebrities in attendance.
Netflix recently renewed Ansari’s Master of None for a second season. The actor says he’s going to continue to use his show to hired minority talent.
“One thing I’ve thought about in going from Season 1 to Season 2 is now we’re in a position to help other people and in Season 2 I’ve been like I gotta find -I gotta do just even more- and find even more actors of color and writers of color,” said Ansari.
“I’m friends with Chris Rock and I’ve seen how he really takes that initiative to foster talent and to look out for people and I think it’s really important,” he added. “It’s kind of a responsibility we have once we kind of get to a certain place to look out for people and I’ve really tried to do that in Season 2 of my show.”
The two-part episode is scheduled to air on June 12 and June 19 on PBS SoCal and is available to stream on Variety.