A bill approved by the California legislature this week would allow actors to request that their ages be scrubbed from casting websites, in what supporters hope will be an important step in combating ageism in Hollywood.
AB 1687, authored by Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Los Angeles), was approved earlier this week by the state Assembly.
The bill’s supporters — including SAG-AFTRA president and former Beverly Hills 90210 actress Gabrielle Carteris — argue that the law is necessary to keep Hollywood casting agents from discriminating based on age.
“My role on Beverly Hills, 90210 could not have happened for me today, plain and simple. I would never have been called to audition for the part of 16-year-old Andrea Zuckerman if they had known I was 29,” Carteris wrote in an essay for the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. “Electronic casting sites did not exist in 1990; today, they are prevalent and influential. And they affect casting decisions even when casting personnel don’t recognize their unconscious bias.
Carteris charged that Hollywood actors face “blatant age discrimination every day” as industry websites like the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and StudioSystem “force” casting agents to consider their ages when making decisions, whether they realize it or not.
Just this week, actress Renée Zellweger expressed disappointment about Hollywood’s attitudes toward older women in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.
“I’ve never seen the maturation of a woman as a negative thing,” the Bridget Jones’s Baby star told the outlet. “I’ve never seen a woman stepping into her more powerful self as a negative.”
Despite the bill’s approval in the Legislature, some California Republicans say it will do little to curb actual age discrimination in the industry.
“I don’t know what’s so sacred about celebrity birth dates,” Republican state Senator Jim Nielsen told the Los Angeles Times. “[Lawmakers] birth dates are everywhere. These celebrities are public figures just like most of us.”
The bill next heads to the Office of Engrossing and Enrolling for proofreading and then to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum