One African-American TV writer’s perspective on the condition TV’s condition is in. And it all makes sad, unhealthy, and yet in its way perfect sense:
On a good day, after I pitched my heart out to a roomful of executives, they would not dismiss my creativity and ask if I had an “Empire-esque” idea to pitch. Why would I pitch Empire? I don’t rap, my father isn’t a rapper and even though my mother did spend time in jail, it wasn’t to serve a 17-year drug sentence. Yes, the Empire effect is real — but it’s not what you might think. The good news: If you’re an established writer of color, you can get a pitch meeting. The bad news: Everyone in Hollywood is looking for the next Empire from every black writer — because I cannot possibly have any other idea or perspective. My creative parameters are limited to the nextScandal, Black-ish or a TV version of Straight Outta Compton. (Side note: The Straight Out of Calabasas pitch that Fox purchased [a comedy about two white parents who live in the celebrity enclave and whose kid is a basketball prodigy] is a complete abomination and the reason I wonder why I even try.)
On a good day, my representation would submit me for shows that tonally fit my writing style and not merely for shows that happen to have the prototypical “person of color” character. So, I can only write for the sassy black, sassy Latino or sassy gay friend? As a person of color, I have no choice but to consider the perspectives of others!
On a good day, after hearing news of my meeting with a showrunner, a white male colleague wouldn’t ask to be my writing partner so he can “get in on that coveted diversity spot.”…