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‘Master of None’ Star and Writer Lena Waithe: Hollywood Needs to ‘Cash in’ and Not ‘Exploit’ Inclusivity

The Television Academy’s fifth annual dynamic and diverse celebration on Tuesday evening showed diversity isn’t just another buzz word floating around the industry for the stars who call TV home.

With the growing success of diverse voices in front and behind the camera, stars took to the North Hollywood’s Saban Media Center not only to celebrate, but to reinforce the importance of inclusion and that diverse talent is here to stay.

“With success always comes mimicry,” said Lena Waithe, who recently became the first black woman nominated for a comedy writing Emmy award. “There’s been a lot of successful shows like ‘This Is Us,’ ‘Atlanta,’ and ‘Insecure,’ so, I feel like whenever something works, Hollywood wants to copy it. And, I think for us it’s about making sure we aren’t exploited and we are a part of the process and able to cash in on the successes as well.”

While actors of color have had success in landing television roles in the past, Hollywood has been known to write and showcase those characters as stereotypes. But, writers have begun to change their approach and showcase the complexity of ethnic groups, in part because diversity has shown to boost ratings.

“When I first got here, I had to play a lot of gang bangers because that’s all that was being written for Latinos,” said “This Is Us” actor Jon Huertas. “Now, playing a successful businessman shows that Hollywood is changing. Our creator, Dan Fogelman, our showrunners and producers are taking that responsibility to heart and changing how we tell stories.”

The actor also pointed out that the industry has a “responsibility to represent diverse characters in a positive way, so that when the public sees those characters it doesn’t continue to create profiling.”

For some in the industry, diversity has become synonymous with race, leaving other members of society out of the equation. Series like A&E’s “Born This Way,” which took home several Creative Arts Emmys on Saturday, lent a voice to those with disabilities in this past year’s programming. Amazon’s “Transparent,” also nominated this year, has continued to represent the trans community.

“Claws” leading lady, Niecy Nash noted, “As leads, we do have to exercise our power to say ‘Oh, now that I’m on, I am not on just for me. I am on for the next person as well.'”

“The Real” host Loni Love — standing at Nash’s side — echoed her sentiment. “It’s the same in the daytime talk space. I can suggest that I want certain people to come on to showcase diversity in a different way that may not be shown otherwise.”

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