Cast of HOMELAND
Several years ago, during a commercial audition, the director asked me what my ethnic background is. I was shocked! Not by the fiftieth time I was asked the same question, but rather shocked at the response that I got. The director said, “If there is a good time for diversity in Hollywood, it is now!” I wish a camera had captured my wide eyed, pleasantly surprised face. I cannot express how happy that comment made me. It gave me the validation that I am in the right place at the right time; and, by the way, I booked the gig!
Cinema and television has served as a medium of validation for a very long time. People watch shows and movies because they want to find themselves in it. They feel the stories validate their emotions and that they are not alone in how they feel about things. The most successful movies and television shows are the ones that people relate to the most. Growing up, I found my representation in Bollywood movies. Only once in a blue moon would I find a person resembling me or one of my family members in Hollywood movies. But these characters were typically the bad guys or poor people in need of a savior. The female representations of women who look like me were often helpless women in Hijabs (headscarves); generally they are women who are playing the roles of a terrorist or related to a terrorist speaking in a foreign language. It truly warms my heart to see that Hollywood is changing that. I was depicted as an English speaking, strong and educated ethnic woman in my last two gigs.
Abundance in Diversity
There is more representation of diversity in Hollywood than ever before. We see more artists from diverse backgrounds not only get nominated but actually win awards as actors, writers or directors; or even win an Oscar for Best Motion Picture (“Parasite”). This calls for a celebration! We are absolutely heading in the right direction; but I also believe this is just the beginning. I think viewers are ready to see that diversity is not just a group of people in some far away land with strange customs and strange attire. I think we can show more of the reality we live in today through movies & television shows. We can show that diversity is also your next-door neighbor, your co-worker, your doctor, your mechanic, your grocery store employee, your best friend, and in some cases, your family member.
There are plenty of successful movies with diversity as the central focal point, such as: “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Big Sick,” “Hustlers,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” and “Greenbook” to name a few. There are also countless successful television shows like: “Quantico,” “Empire,” and “Mr. Robot.” There are also many comedies such as: “Master of None,” “Jane the Virgin,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” “Superstore,” “The Mindy Project,” and “Ramy” (Golden Globe Best Actor Winner in 2019). The success of the above named features and series clearly show that there is a huge market for diversity in entertainment. Decline in movie theater ticket sales and increase in subscriptions to online streaming platforms show that viewers are choosing the comfort of their homes over going to the theaters. With the variety of international streaming platforms, people can choose what they want to watch versus content that is pre-selected for them. So then, naturally, they will choose to watch what they relate to most.
We live in a diverse world with access to streaming media here in the United States and across the globe. It is therefore only logical to conclude that Hollywood needs to create more content with lead characters from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Clearly, there is a huge market for it! Maybe that will then cause the next generation to grow up relating more to movie heroes and heroines than ever before. In fact, some may even grow up to be real life heroes creating solutions and cures we have not yet discovered… who knows.