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‘Vida,’ ‘Defenders,’ ‘SWAT’ Showrunners Talk Diversity Programs, Challenges to Inclusion at UTA Summit

At UTA’s second annual showrunners panel Tuesday night, several of the people behind series such as “The Defenders,” “Vida,” and “S.W.A.T.” discussed the challenges and horrible experiences they faced in writers’ rooms, as well as how they set a better, more inclusive tone in their own.

When asked about her first experience in a writers’ room, “Vida” showrunner Tanya Saracho said that she wasn’t prepared for being “the only person of color in the room” and the abuse which came her way as a result.

“I was crying at lunch and in the bathroom every day,” Saracho said. “In the first hour, my co-worker turns to me and says, ‘You do know you’re the diversity hire right?’…They are great programs in concept, but in implementation you get that kind of s—, so that tainted everything for me.”

The discussion moved on to the term “diverse writer” and how, in Saracho’s opinion, it should be replaced.

“I’m speaking to the agents in the room, the term ‘diverse writer’ doesn’t exist, you can have a diverse room, a diverse duo, but not a diverse writer,” Saracho said. “It’s about naming it, the otherness, and I know it appears to be a good shorthand, but it doesn’t mean anything.”

“S.W.A.T.” showrunner Aaron Thomas added that programs to promote writer diversity are a “necessary first step.”

“Left to its own devices, we have 80 to 100 years of proof of what happens in the entertainment industry, so even if that’s the first step where a few of us are in and we have to be the ones to create opportunities, it’s worth it, it’s worth having the hard feelings of some writer who approached you in the kitchen,” Thomas said.

The panel also included “The Defenders” showrunner Marco Ramirez, “The L Word” helmer Marja-Lewis Ryan, and Aida Croal, who serves as showrunner on the upcoming FX series “Y: The Last Man.”

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