Success of 'Empire' Forces Networks to Cast More Black Actors
With the recent success of 'Empire', 'Black-ish' and 'How to Get Away With Murder' networks are pushing casting directors and producers to hire more people of color.According to the LATimes, the most-watched new comedy and drama of 2015 are both predominately featuring African American leads and came from creators or executive producers who were also African American. But, the biggest surprise is Fox's new hit TV series, 'Empire'.
"Empire" has since followed the reverse trajectory of most freshman hits: Its overall audience has steadily grown each week, up nearly 15% to 11.3 million for its most recent Wednesday night broadcast — a sign of the soap's strong word of mouth and potent must-see factor. It is also one of the most social shows on television, ranking in the top 10 of Nielsen's Twitter TV ratings.
"Empire" and shows like it not only are bringing more diverse faces to prime time, but also are harnessing the power of black viewers, a group long neglected by broadcast networks despite the fact that African Americans watch a disproportionate share of traditional television — an average of 201 hours a month in the third quarter of 2014, according to Nielsen. While all three series are broad-based hits attracting viewers of all races, they are also particularly popular with black audiences. "Empire" is most dramatically so: Nearly two-thirds of its viewers under 50 are African American.This is what Lee Daniels had to say about the recent success of 'Empire'.
"[The success of these shows> says that black people watch TV," said Daniels, who is African American, in an email. "Not only watching, but we are coming out in droves to watch. We also go to the movies and to the theater, especially if we can identify with the subject matter and the people that we see."Even though African American audiences watch more TV than other groups, many networks have been scared to put black characters at the center of their shows. Typically black shows were comedies such as "The Cosby Show," "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," and "The Bernie Mac Show". Viola Davis points this out in an interview:
"I have the same background as some of the most prominent, classically trained Caucasian actors," the Juilliard alumna told The Times in an interview last year, "yet I haven't had the material to reflect my ability."Currently, CBS is the least diverse broadcast network. According to reports, CBS' prime-time shows in fall 2014, 79% of the cast were white. But, CBS is reportedly trying to change that with a new "Rush Hour" TV series. However, it is important to note that Hollywood is motivated by money. If 'Black-ish' ratings drop, or if 'Empire' stops trending on Twitter, then expect network executives to pull the plug on black actors and continue with the regularly scheduled programming. Discuss this story with fellow Project Casting fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @projectcasting.