BY MELENA RYZIK
The statistics are unequivocal: Women and minorities are vastly underrepresented in front of and behind the camera. Here, 27 industry players reveal the stories behind the numbers — their personal experiences of not feeling seen, heard or accepted, and how they pushed forward. In Hollywood, exclusion goes far beyond #OscarsSoWhite. (Interviews have been edited and condensed.)
Sam Esmail - Creator, 'Mr. Robot'
Growing up, I [thought] white male was the norm, the default character in every story. I never thought other possibilities could exist. And I remember thinking, when I would watch Woody Allen films or films that felt personal, I wonder what I’m going to do when I write my personal films, because I can’t cast an Egyptian-American; that would be weird. In film school, there was this need to talk about your ethnicity and to make essentially social-message films. But I resisted, because I felt that it changed the conversation of what the movie was about.
When I went to the studios [for] writing assignments, it was immediately white, 30s, male. That began the pendulum swinging the other way for me. [The lead character of “Mr. Robot”], Elliot, is not written with any specific race or ethnicity in mind. [In auditions], it was mostly white guys. I opened up the process, and Rami [Malek] was just brilliant. He looks different, whether that’s because he is Egyptian [or] just Rami. The conversation with the network was tough; I don’t think it had to do with race — or I’d like to think it didn’t. The show is already unusual. The barrier to entry for a show — from a network’s point of view — is, can the audience identify with this person, and is race going to be a roadblock?
To read the full article of all 27 industry players: