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'Diversity in TV should be a given in 2018'

DIVERSITY: Lennie James has called for greater representation on TV

UK STAR of The Walking Dead, Lennie James, has criticised ongoing efforts to make the British TV and film industry more diverse.

The zombie horror series, produced by American network AMC, has been praised for its diverse cast since it began in 2010.

In a recent interview with The Independent, the 53-year-old actor, one of the most prominent black actors working in both the US and UK, said that progress on the issue in the UK was painfully slow.

He said: “The crumbs you’re fighting for in the UK are much smaller than what they are in America.

“You can be Will Smith, knocking through the glass ceiling and still be having conversations about representation – even though you’re a bankable actor whose name on a film means everybody goes to see it.

“A lot of that can be to do with a conversation white people should be having with themselves and not having with us.

“They need to ask themselves why they're still having this f***ing conversation in 2018.”

He continued: “I was just speaking to somebody whose job is now to work with film and television companies about their diverse representation. “Why, in nearly 2020, is it necessary for a black woman to have an official post in teaching white folk how to let black people through the door?” James added: “I don’t do 'firsts' anymore.


“People talk about it in a sense that it should be celebrated, and my first thought is, ‘You should be ashamed. It’s 2018 and this is the first?’ Forget about it.”

Jacquie Hughes, the director of content policy at Ofcom echoed James’ concerns.

She told the recent Westminster Insight Diversity in Television event that broadcasters that fail to embrace diversity will be “increasingly less relevant” and risk losing young audiences.

Citing the variety of programming available on streaming services such as Netflix, she said: “If your audiences have broadened expectations of what they would like to see with regards to representation and lives they can access and you are not offering them that you will be increasingly less relevant.

“This is especially with young people, who are used to seeing race and religious and sexual diversity as the norm.”

She said it was important that the current debate about diversity led to meaningful change and that broadcasters who are not focused on the inclusivity of their programming are “missing a trick”, adding: “If you’re not constantly working on that you are not only suggesting some people are invisible but you are missing a chance to engage with them.”

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