×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

African-American Showrunners Talk Strides in TV Representation

In observance of Black History Month, the Paley Center for Media hosted a panel of African-American creators, executive producers, and showrunners to discuss the current state of the industry Tuesday night in Beverly Hills. The event, “They Run the Show: African-American Creators and Producers in Conversation,” was part of the center’s installment, African-American Achievements in Television: A Black History Spotlight.

With the difficulties facing black creatives in the industry — namely breaking in and staying in — “Power” showrunner Courtney A. Kemp believes the number one priority to resolving some of these issues is to bring a diverse group to the table. “I think the solution is probably strength in numbers,” she said. “The base priority for me as a showrunner is to make more showrunners of color.”

Kemp summarized her perspective by saying, “I hope that this isn’t the swing of a pendulum, but is the steady march forward in progress, because I would hate to see it swing back.”

Further detailing the stark underrepresentation in writers rooms, “Insecure” showrunner Prentice Penny said that he had a rude awakening after completing his first job as a writer on “Girlfriends.” He recalled, “From ’07 I worked on various white (sitcoms), “Scrubs,” working on other shows, “Happy Endings,” and then it wasn’t until 2015 with “Insecure” that I had worked with another black person. I didn’t work with another black individual for eight years!”

The panelists — which also included “Claws” showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois, “Star” showrunner Karin Gist, and “Marvel’s Luke Cage” showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker — praised the number of black showrunners working concurrently on television today, noting a major increase in the past decade.

Creator of “Dear White People,” Justin Simien, offered his vantage for what real strides would look like. “For me, (it’s) when we no longer have to talk about black shows,” he said. “We are at parity with representation within the country, and we don’t have to call it a black show anymore. We can call it a show.”

Justin Simien, Cheo Hodari Coker, Janine Sherman Barrois, Courtney A. Kemp, Karin Gist, Prentice Penny, and moderator Nischelle Turner Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

More Scene

  • John CenaSports Illustrated Sportsperson of the

    John Cena on WWE's Acceptance by Hollywood and the Professional Sports World

    John Cena says the WWE is finally getting the attention it deserves by Hollywood and the professional sports world. “I’m just glad that no longer are we looked down upon, not only by the sport industry, but by the performing arts industry,” Cena told Variety on Tuesday night in Beverly Hills at Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of [...]

  • Steve Carell Welcome to Marwen

    Steve Carell on New Film 'Welcome to Marwen' and Reprising His 'Anchorman' Character

    In 2000, Mark Hogancamp was nearly beaten to death by five men outside of a bar. Left with brain damage and little money to afford therapy, Hogancamp began creating miniature doll versions of himself, his friends, and his attackers as a way to cope. This true story inspired the 2010 documentary “Marwencol” and the upcoming [...]

  • Christian Bale'Vice' film premiere, Arrivals, Los

    Christian Bale Recalls Meeting Donald Trump: 'He Thought I Was Bruce Wayne'

    With Christian Bale‘s latest film, “Vice,” a political dramedy, it’s inevitable ties will be drawn between the film and the current political administration and its chief, President Donald Trump. On the red carpet for the premiere of “Vice,” Bale, who stars as former Vice President Dick Cheney, shared that he met the current president while [...]

  • Amy Poehler Is Ready for a

    Amy Poehler Is Ready for a 'Parks and Rec' Reunion

    Is Amy Poehler just getting our hopes up? We hope not, because the funny lady tells Variety that she’s ready for a “Parks and Recreation” reunion. “I am technically available,” Poehler said on Monday at Smart Girls’ 10th anniversary celebration dinner. “I have like six of Leslie’s blazers in my closet, so anytime.” “Parks and Recreation” [...]

  • Meredith Walker, Rashida Jones, Amy Poehler,

    Inside Amy Poehler's Smart Girls 10th Anniversary Dinner (EXCLUSIVE)

    “I’ve made an observation I’d like to share. I’m the only one that’s eaten my crab cake,” joked Amy Poehler as she addressed the room during the round robin introductions being made at her Smart Girls 10th anniversary dinner on Monday night. The 16 women at the table, who were so enthralled in the conversation [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron, Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de

    Alfonso Cuaron Says 'Roma' Is Better in Theaters

    Director Alfonso Cuaron opted to work with Netflix for his latest film “Roma,” but the decorated filmmaker isn’t discounting the importance of a big-screen viewing. “The complete experience of ‘Roma’ is unquestionably in a movie theater,” Cuaron said Monday night at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles for the premiere of “Roma.”  The streaming giant did [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content