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Black-and-white Emmys reflect TV's narrow ethnic view

AP  |  Los Angeles 

When cameras pan across the faces of eager, anxious Emmy Award nominees at Sunday's ceremony, TV viewers will see a record 12 African-Americans vying for comedy and drama series acting honors. But it's a lop-sided outcome in the struggle for diversity.

"Master of None" star Aziz Ansari, who is of Indian heritage, is the sole Asian-American to be nominated for a continuing series lead or supporting role. Not a single Latino is included in the marquee acting categories.

An Emmy version of the 2015-16 #OscarsSoWhite protests would miss the point: Worthy films and performances from people of color were snubbed by movie academy voters, while insiders say the scant Emmy love for non-black minorities largely reflects closed TV industry doors.

"There are a lot of us, but because we haven't gotten the opportunity to shine you don't know we're around," said Ren Hanami, an Asian-American actress who's worked steadily on TV in smaller roles but found substantive, award-worthy parts elusive.

The hard-won progress made by the African-American stars and makers of Emmy-nominated shows including "black-ish" and "Atlanta" has brought them creative influence, visibility and, this year, nearly a quarter (23.5 per cent) of series cast nominations.

While that success is cheered by other ethnic groups, they say it illuminates how narrowly the entertainment industry views diversity despite the fact that Latinos and Asian-Americans are America's first and third largest ethnic groups, respectively.

But it also stands as proof that change is possible with a combination of activism, education and business savvy, according to industry members and outsiders seeking change.

"TV has never been 'brown-ish,'" said actor-comedian Paul Rodriguez, riffing on the title of the hit African-American family comedy.

He starred in the 1984 sitcom "a.K.A. Pablo," one of the handful of Latino-centered series, and wrote "The Pitch, or How to Pitch a Latino Sitcom that Will Never Air," a 2015 stage show he reprised this month in Los Angeles because, he said, Hispanics haven't gained ground.

"They don't put us on television enough for them to even know if it's not working," Rodriguez said. "They just assume it won't work. And it goes on year after year. Our population keeps growing, and so does our frustration."

It's reached critical mass, said Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

In 1999, the coalition joined with the NAACP and others to demand action from broadcast networks in the wake of an all-white slate of new shows.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, September 13 2017. 00:28 IST