Asian Americans Still Largely Missing From Hollywood

Despite progress, advocates say more needs to be done to ensure fair representation on both sides of the camera.

By Jamilah King Jan 27, 2011

The Asian American Justice Center released its annual report card on television diversity this week. The report analyzes the four major networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC — on their inclusion of Asian Pacific Islander actors, writers and directors on network television shows. And while the latest grades show quite an improvement over the past decade, they also show concern that progress has become stagnant in recent years.

ABC, CBS, and NBC each scored an overall grade of B-, while Fox came in last with a C+. Those scores were based on individual grades for the numbers of writers, directors, executives and diversity initiatives at each network.

"Time has shown that some showrunners are apparently uncomfortable writing for non-white lead characters and are not going to change," Karen K. Narasaki, president of AAJC, said in a statement. "So it is necessary to create a new generation of writers and producers who can be successful in telling stories that will resonate with what America is today."

The report card noted that while shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Outsourced, Modern Family, Glee and Ugly Betty, have marked a significant turning point for APA actors and audiences, not enough are taking leadership roles behind the camera.

"After more than a decade of effort, each network should have a strong pipeline of minority talent ready to become the next Shonda Rhimes," Narasaki wrote, referring to the creator, head writer, and executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy.

Narasaki did express concern over what the recently approved Comcast-NBC merger could mean for APA writers, actors and directors. Back in April of 2008 Comcast axed AZN, the only network aimed at Asian American viewers.

"At the time, part of their position was, ‘we don’t provide content,’ " Narasaki told The Hill. "We felt the challenge for Asian-American filmmakers was to find distribution channels. We’re not asking for them to create content, we’re there to figure out how could Comcast increase distribution opportunities for work created by Asian-Americans."