Did you know that before Kerry Washington took the part of Olivia Pope, that the last African-American actresses to have a lead role on TV, were both cast back in the previous century? Dihann Carroll played Julia (from 1968–1971) in the eponymously titled show Julia and following her 3 years later, came actress Teresa Graves, who played Christie Love in the show Get Christie Love which only lasted from 1974–1975.
This means that a black actress has not been considered a strong enough pull, to draw in audiences for 37, 38 years - which is utter madness! Yet look at the network results for Scandal. Its season 3 debut episode had 10.5 million viewers, which is officially a record in TV ratings history.
With this fact firmly in the faces of TV execs, who only think of ratings in relation to advertising revenue, I say look out for a trend of shows that will have African-American actresses at the forefront because now their faces can spell M-O-N-E-Y. And perhaps on the periphery the notion of beauty can also be redefined, as lets not forget, this is a factor when hiring women. We must not forget that we are talking about the oldest, ultimate, technological, visual medium, that unfortunately is drenched in superficiality and with the politics of race and shadizm. The rule was the darker your skin tone, the more limited your options and that has been a standard practice for years.
"Unfortunately there is still too much ye olde thinking that pervades within the media about what…or I should say whom can draw audiences in, to generate satisfactory box office or TV ratings."
On this side of the pond, with the UK actually loosing its black talent no matter the gender to the US, the revolution will probably have to come via the internet, as the number of shows with black casts, but also black production teams is on a major rise in the land of the www dot. I guarantee you, eventually the UK mainstream establishment will have to take notice and they will have to get past giving prime roles in just hood and crime dramas.
Unfortunately there is still too much ye olde thinking that pervades within the media about what…or I should say whom can draw audiences in, to generate satisfactory box office or TV ratings. They still haven't realised that the old an age practice of sticking to the same old casting formula is making the lack of variety on the small box intensely boring and often just plain repetitive. No longer are all the top shows producing a standard 24 episodes per season. Your show has to hit significant rating figures these days from the get-go, especially debut shows, just so you don't get cancelled. So from a survival point of view it would pay dividends to represent all demographics and bring some flavour to the proceedings beyond the capacity of tokenism.
Hopefully with these shows doing well executive producers are going to have to come to their senses about the eclectic members of the world in which we actually live in and how intelligent people can’t be controlled by notions of race when it comes to entertainment.