You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Lee Daniels Discusses Exploring Racism, Classism on ‘Star’: ‘We’re in a Difficult Time in America’

Lee Daniels and the cast of “Star” spoke to reporters on Wednesday at the Television Critics Association press tour on a panel for the new Fox show, which centers on a girl group’s struggle to rise to the top of the music industry.

Though the music-filled “Star” is about a girl group on the surface, the drama explores deeper issues of race relations and classism — subject matter that Daniels described as “stories that are hitting the streets of America right now.”

“We’re going deep into what’s happening outside of the rise of the girl group,” Daniels said at one point throughout the Q&A with press members. “We’re going deep into what’s happening right now, as I know it to be in the churches, in the African-American communities, in America’s community.”

During the panel, Daniels was questioned about recent comments he made during an interview on “The Real” when he explained casting the character, Star, with a Caucasian actress “because I felt that the country, instinctively, I thought, needed to heal. And I thought that this white girl is so fabulous that black people will embrace her and white people will embrace her.” On the daytime show, Daniels also said, “We are truly, I believe, in a civil war…When we understand that we’re all one, will we then understand America.”

Today, Daniels clarified those comments at TCA, saying, “There is no right or wrong to this. I am a 57-year-old black man that came to Hollywood with $7 in his pocket and a dream to dare to dream big. When we were putting this television show together, we talked about inspirations to me,” he said, mentioning “Dreamgirls,” among other projects. “Recently, it dawned on me, why am I putting a white girl (Jude Demorest) in the middle of this black environment with a sister who is half black (Brittany O’Grady) with another singer who is an entitled, very rich black girl (Ryan Destiny) with a transgender (Amiyah Scott) that’s beautiful? Why am I doing that now?” he pondered.

Alluding to President-elect Donald Trump, Daniels continued, “We’re in a difficult time in America. I foresaw where we would be right now. When I said heal the nation, I think it was about personal healing — sometimes you’re misquoted — but it was about bringing these girls and watching these girls come together as a family, as they aspire to their dreams.”

Daniels cleared up that, in no way, was he downplaying the issue of racism during his talk show appearance.

“Though there is racism, I was not saying that there is not racism,” Daniels explained. “Racism is very, very, very real. And you’re talking to someone who has experienced it first-hand. I’m not going to let racism define me. That’s all I can say.”

Scott, who plays a transgender character on “Star,” shared with reporters her own real-life experiences as a transgender woman.

“Being transgender was different for my parents,” she said, adding the she was her father’s only son. “I had certain expectations in my life. It was supposed to go a certain way…to almost realize all of a sudden that wasn’t who I am…that was something difficult to deal with. We did struggle. I’m blessed to have parents who at least love me enough.”

Scott hopes that “Star” can help educate the masses on the transgender community, and even influence opinion. She said, “Shows like this can open up your mind. Although you may feel a certain way about a subject at first, things can change.”

Among other issues touched upon in the show is the subject of classism, specifically within the African-American community. Daniels said he was excited to incorporate that topic through Naomi Campbell and Lenny Kravitz’s characters, whom he called “privileged.”

“Race, it’s a volatile subject right now in this country. But it’s also about classism, too,” Daniels said. “That Fox has enabled me to tell the story and to hire both females and minorities in back of the screen and enabled me again to do it, it fills my heart as much as telling the story.”

Wrapping up the panel with Scott, Campbell, Benjamin Bratt, Queen Latifah, co-creator Tom Dinghy, and executive producer Pamela Oas Williams, Daniels raved that “Star” exposes “a new slice of life in America that I don’t think you’ll see on any other network.”

After the panel, Daniels was pressed on the status of the proposed “Empire” spinoff. Daniels said he was working on it and hoped to bring it to fruition.

“It’s real,” Daniels told Variety. “We are now in discussions,” although he cautioned that the concept is still being sorted out.

More TV

  • Bristol, CT - March 13, 2017

    Mina Kimes Helps ESPN Kick Off 'Daily' Podcast

    Mina Kimes is preparing to take ESPN into a new frontier. The sports-media giant has launched a “SportsCenter” for Snapchat and tested baseball telecasts for kids. Now it’s hoping to set up shop in another media venue. Starting tomorrow, the Disney-backed company launches “ESPN Daily,” a weekday morning podcast that aims to tap its vast [...]

  • MIA Wrap

    Rome MIA Market Wraps With Stronger U.S. Presence, Boosts Italy's Industry Standing

    Rome’s MIA market for TV series, feature films and documentaries wrapped positively Sunday with organizers boasting a bump in attendance just as some 2,500 executives departed in an upbeat mood after four days of dealmaking and presentations of mostly European fresh product, which elevated Italy’s global standing in the industry, especially within the TV sector. [...]


    Showrunner Stefano Voltaggio on Netflix's 'Zero' About Black Youths in Italy (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix recently announced a new Italian original titled “Zero” that will mark the first Italian series centered around the present-day lives of black Italian youths. “Zero” is based on several books by young writer and TV music show host Antonio Dikele Distefano, who was born in Italy from Angolan parents. The project was originated by [...]

  • Content-is-King

    Top TV Execs Tackle New Distribution Landscape in Rome

    ROME – In an increasingly complex TV market, with a host of new big-ticket streaming services preparing to enter an already crowded arena, both buyers and sellers are rethinking some of the fundamentals of the TV business as they grapple with the best way to reach global audiences. A host of top producers, network executives, [...]

  • MIA-MARKET-2019_Europe-Producers-Club_4

    European Producers and Broadcasters Debate How to Weather Streaming Storm

    ROME – The impending rollout of Disney Plus, HBO Max, and other new streaming services promises a new era of uncertainty—and opportunity—for broadcasters and producers in an industry already disrupted by the likes of Netflix and Amazon. At a panel hosted by the European Producers Club Friday afternoon during the MIA market in Rome, executives [...]

  • Kevin-Beggs

    Lionsgate TV Chairman Kevin Beggs on Streamers and TV’s ‘Platinum Era’

    ROME – Over the course of two decades in the industry, Lionsgate Television chairman Kevin Beggs has witnessed the ups and downs of a business that has frequently found itself confronting both dizzying new possibilities as well as existential threats. But these days the veteran exec, who oversees the development of all scripted and non-scripted content [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content