“It’s important for all of us as storytellers to do the very best that we can to represent everyone,” said Anya Colloff, one of the casting directors of “Young Rock.”
In the Variety Streaming Room, hosted by film awards editor Clayton Davis, casting directors and stars of NBC’s Emmy nominated “This Is Us,” freshman comedy “Young Rock” and Peacock’s revival “Saved by the Bell,” gathered virtually for Variety and NBC Universal’s Virtual FYC House.
Panelists included from “Young Rock,” actor Uli Latukefu (who plays Dwayne Johnson ages 18 to 20) and casting directors Colloff and Michael Nicolo, from “Saved by the Bell,” actor Josie Totah (who plays high school student Lexi) and casting director Julie Ashton, and from “This Is Us,” actor Rachel Hilson (who plays teen Beth Clark, portrayed in adulthood by Susan Kelechi Watson) and casting director Josh Einsohn. The NBC panelists discussed the importance of diverse representation on the small screen.
“I have a 14 year old son and he watches all these shows, and it’s really important to him because everybody that he knows in his world are extremely diverse and dynamic kids,” Ashton said. “It’s a big inspiration to kids. When I was growing up, so many of these things were not represented on television, whether they be subjects or actual people of different genders, races, whatever. And I think it’s so refreshing for our kids to be growing up with this kind of innovative television.”
Nicolo noted that shows must think outside the box and focus on increasing representation from the top down.
“It’s important because it represents the real world and real stories,” Nicolo said. “It’s important to include [diverse characters] in lead roles and not just supporting guests.”
Speaking on his own experience as a gay man, Einsohn emphasized the importance of seeing LGBTQ representation on screen as a kid.
“Growing up as a future gay kid, [there weren’t] any LGBTQ characters, or if they were, they were parodied on screen,” Einsohn said. “Whenever you diversify your cast, people get to see themselves in it. And I think that’s a very beautiful thing to get to do.”
Hilson added that on-screen representation can have real-world effects, and portraying certain groups on TV in only a few ways limits the way people are viewed off-screen.
“The way that Black people or people of color are represented, it has a direct effect on how other people see these communities,” Hilson said. “I am very excited to see different representations of Black people, Black children, Black families, and that extends to all these different communities of color and identities as well.”
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