Can Television Have More Shonda Rhimes Please?
Frustrating as it is, racism in Hollywood is still prevalent in 2013. When USA Today explored the absence of Black women in Hollywood this week, they highlighted the approach behind the racial diversity that can be found on “Grey’s Anatomy” — color-blind casting. Linda Lowy, the casting director behind the oh-so-addictive hospital drama created by Shonda Rhimes, explained, “When I cast the pilot of ‘Grey’s,’ Shonda didn’t give anybody a last name. She just said, ‘Linda, I want you to cast it the way you see the world.'” Usually casting notices come with descriptions like “White male, late 30s to early 50s, musclar” or “Asian female, any age, must look 15 to 17.” But with little physical description or race tied to the casting of the characters, the opportunities for more equality expanded in a major way.
Lowy says that when actress Chandra Wilson was cast as Dr. Miranda Bailey on “Grey’s Anatomy,” a role that was originally written for a white actress, “all of the sudden, it’s like the waters parted and the world opened up and we saw the possibilities of what we could do if we took it another way.” The show ended up with an extremely racially diverse cast of actors, including Sandra Oh, Sara Ramirez, Jesse Williams, James Pickens, and others. As Rhimes has shown with “Grey’s” as well as her other series, “Scandal” and “Private Practice,” openness could be the key. Being willing to challenge one’s preconceived notion of what a character might look like in the casting process just may be the first step to bringing more equality into the picture, and in front of the camera.