Variety Streaming Room: Television FYC
Amber Ruffin, host and executive producer of “The Amber Ruffin Show,” said she remembers growing up and not being able to see “a drippity drop of color” on television. It was when shows like…
Amber Ruffin, host and executive producer of “The Amber Ruffin Show,” said she remembers growing up and not being able to see “a drippity drop of color” on television. It was when shows like “Family Matters” started coming out that cracked open her worldview and gave her confidence to pursue a career in comedy.
“There were nerds and weirdos,” Ruffin said. “You ain’t never seen a Black nerd before. I guess Lamar in ‘Revenge of the Nerds,’ but other than that, it was Steven Urkel. And I remember seeing that and being like, “Wait a second now, if he can exist, then there’s certainly room for me and my goofy behavior.“‘
In the Variety Streaming Room, senior artisans editor Jazz Tangcay spoke with a panel of accomplished screenwriters about creating more diverse opportunities in the writers’ room and the importance of diversity towards better representation.
Sierra Ornelas is the co-creator, executive producer and showrunner of “Rutherford Falls,” which has one of the largest Indigenous writers’ rooms on TV. She said there was once a belief in Hollywood that there wasn’t enough native writers and talent, but never found that to be the case.
“We had this abundance of writers that we’ve suggested for other shows that weren’t right for our show but we’ve tried to hype up, and same with our actors,” Ornelas said. “We’ve just had way more people than we had parts for. Once you get in that position, you find that these ideas that people put in your head systemically aren’t really accurate.”
Jeff Chiang, the co-creator and executive producer of “Young Rock,” said it’s important for writers from underrepresented communities to stay persistent in terms of pitching or making their own shows.
“It’s a tough place, and the perception of you when you’re at the bottom is ‘Are you just here because of this? Are you just here because you’re checking a box?’ Chiang said. “And that’s a tough thing to be in because you’re not, you’re there because you’re good, and you’d have every right to be there as anyone else.”
Tracey Wigfield, executive producer of “Saved by the Bell,” agreed with everyone on the panel and added that it’s important for showrunners to acknowledge their power and use it to lift up others.
“That’s all that hiring is, often,” Wigfield said. “It’s giving people opportunities that maybe they haven’t done before yet. And just having an open mind to…this might not be something that someone has had the chance to get to do before, but they might be good at it.”
Register now for a VIP pass to explore the full Variety and NBCUniversal Virtual FYC House now through June 28: Variety.com/NBCFYCHouse