SAG-AFTRA’s top executive has called on Hollywood to increase the numbers of people of color in leadership roles to address the industry’s diversity problem.
David White, national executive director of the performers union, issued the comments in the wake of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences took steps to double the numbers of minorities in the Academy by 2020. The diversity issue has been at the forefront of Hollywood since the Jan. 14 announcement of Oscar nominations, which didn’t include any non-white actors.
White, who is African-American and has headed the union since 2009, singled out AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and exec director Dawn Hudson in his comments.
“I think it is appropriate to applaud Cheryl and Dawn, who I know care a lot about this and ensured that it got to the top of the agenda as quickly as it did,” said White. “However, this is only one step and the truth is we have a pipeline problem. We do not have enough people of color in the pipeline of decision making.”
SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard said, “I applaud the Academy on these steps. They’re doing some smart things that will enhance inclusion and promote diversity. That’s a good start.”
Mike Hodge, the union’s New York president, said it was “insane” that the exclusion issue remains in 2016.
“As a black actor, I was extremely frustrated that another Academy nominees slate overlooked not just good, but great, diverse performances,” he said. “It’s insane that we still grapple with the issue of inclusion in 2016. This has to change. It must be acknowledged that the Academy’s leadership has taken important steps to begin that change and I am grateful for and applaud their efforts.”
The SAG Awards nominations included the cast of “Straight Outta Compton” as one of the five casts up for its ensemble prize and Idris Elba for “Beasts of No Nation” in the supporting actor category.
“This is not about who shouldn’t be on the list. I salute all of the Academy nominees on their performances this year,” Hodge added. “Their work is excellent. They are SAG-AFTRA members, and many were recognized with SAG Awards nominations. However, several diverse actors also were nominated for SAG Awards. We are proud of that diversity and it will be on display when our show airs Jan. 30.”
Hodge said that the recognition from the SAG nominations was not enough, adding, “We can not rest until our work and the recognitions and honors awarded for it, reflect the true diversity of performers and their performances.”
On Monday, Directors Guild of America President Paris Barclay blasted Hollywood executives for failing to take enough action to address the lack of employment for women and minorities.
White’s comments were first reported by the Los Angeles Times.