Despite high hopes and higher stakes, 2015 wasn’t quite the year that Hollywood solved its many issues with representation. It was a year that saw a depressingly white slate of Oscar nominees in January, followed by Emma Stone playing a character who’s half Asian in July’s Aloha. In November, The Hollywood Reporter was obliged to call out the whiteness of its annual actress roundtable issue.
And yet it was also a year in which Empire became TV’s biggest breakout hit in years, the encouragingly diverse Star Wars: The Force Awakens made more money than any movie ever produced, Viola Davis’s Emmy speech made waves, and works like Creed, Furious 7, Fresh off the Boat, and Master of None became critical and commercial hits. So it’s particularly baffling now that in looking ahead to the year in TV and film, so many upcoming projects feature primarily white actors.
There’s plenty of evidence that the industry thinks 2015’s diversity boom was nothing more than a passing fad. Last March, Deadline published a piece about a “trend” in “ethnic casting” for TV that noted how the success of Empire and other shows with diverse casts had inspired studios to look for more actors of color in pilot season. It also included some hand-wringing from agents about their white clients getting less work (and eventually prompted an apology from the site). 2015’s fall season included shows like Dr. Ken, Quantico, Rosewood, The Player, and Minority Report with leads of color; but this winter feels a little more lacking, especially on the “prestige TV” front, where new shows like Billions, Vinyl, and even Fuller House are the biggest things on offer.