Amanda Pendolino
November 21, 2012

White Dudes Are Winning: Casting Practices in Hollywood (INFOGRAPHIC)

Why are characters in film and TV so predominantly white and male? A new infographic illustrates the troubling casting process of Hollywood. Federal law prevents employers from discriminating based on race — but casting has long existed in a kind of loophole.

Some startling facts:

  • Nearly 70% of casting calls show preference for white actors
  • Over 2/3 of leading roles are given to men
  • Over 80% of leading roles go to white actors

The whitewashing of Hollywood stems from a number of factors. First, roles are created by writers, who may or may not include identifying characteristics like skin color, hair color or last name. As a screenwriter myself, I try to leave out any characteristics that would automatically make a character white — but once a script is finished, it’s out of my hands.

Next, casting directors make decisions about what to put in casting breakdowns looking for actors. Then, agents and managers make decisions about which clients to send in for roles. After auditions, casting directors, producers, studio executives and network executives choose the actors. Diversifying the landscape of TV and film will require a concerted effort on the part of all of these people to seek out more than just white people.

Male dominance is a similar problem: since women hold only 26% of powerful behind-the-scenes positions and 68% of TV shows have NO women in their writers rooms, decisions about new characters and casting are made mostly by men.

Writer/director/producer Judd Apatow admitted to Elle that he only thought seriously about female roles after wife Leslie Mann brought it up:

“Leslie would always say, ‘There aren’t good roles for women, the female parts aren’t developed, the women are serving the men.’ And just seeing the stack of scripts she had to read showed me how little effort was put into making great female characters.”

What can be done to change this?

1. The entertainment industry needs to encourage men to think more about characters who aren’t like them.

2. The industry also needs to encourage women and minorities to pursue careers as writers, directors, casting directors, producers, studio executives, agents and managers. Many girls and minorities don’t see representations of themselves on TV and in movies, so they don’t feel they’re welcome in the industry. Targeting young people in high school and college can help; media literacy programs and creative writing mentorship programs like WriteGirl give students the tools to question accepted practices and pursue such careers. Supporting arts programs in underfunded public schools (on Kickstarter, for example) is another way to get involved.

3. As moviegoers and TV watchers, we need to support the films and shows that include diverse voices. We need to show Hollywood we want to break the cycle of white dude dominance!