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CBS launches diversity initiative

By Greg Braxton | Los Angeles Times Published: October 15, 2016 4:00 AM

LOS ANGELES -- CBS is launching a major casting initiative designed to discover new performers from across the country and increase the pool of diverse talent for its current dramas and upcoming dramatic pilots.

The announcement comes a little more than two months after the network came under fire for a fall lineup that included six new series all featuring white male leads. CBS has repeatedly been criticized for its lack of progress on the multiculturalism front -- few of its programs in the last decade have featured a minority in a leading role, and it is the only broadcast network not to have a series built around a family of color.

CBS Entertainment President Glenn Geller said at that time that diversity has been and is a priority of the network. In announcing the new initiative, Geller said the objective is to address and correct those concerns by inviting performers who are not based in New York or Los Angeles to try out for CBS shows.

"We're timing this initiative to pilot season," he said. "The long-term goal is to broaden our already increasing pool of diverse talent."

The initiative will also serve as a counterpart to CBS' annual Comedy Sketch Showcase, in which minority, LGBTQ and differently abled talent seeking representation perform for agents, managers and network executives. Performers who have been discovered through that showcase include Justin Hires ("MacGyver") and Kate McKinnon ("Saturday Night Live").

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From Oct. 13 through Oct. 28, actors 18 and older based in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco will be able to submit a self-taped monologue via www.CBSDiversity.com

Casting honchos will review all online submissions and make selections for regional callback auditions in Atlanta (Nov. 7, 8 & 9), Austin (Nov. 3 & 4), Chicago (Nov. 2, 3, & 4), Miami (Nov. 10 & 11), and San Francisco (Nov. 10 & 11). Those chosen for the callbacks will rehearse with casting executives and be put on tape. Following those regional casting sessions, 14-16 actors will be selected to travel to Los Angeles for a network screen test that will be used for casting opportunities for current series, pilot season and in the future.

Geller added that producers and writers in the past months have pitched shows where "diversity is baked into the concept. That of course is step one in how we become more diverse, if it's organic."

He also touted the diversity of the network's reality slate, which includes the upcoming series "Hunted," in which contestants participate in a nationwide manhunt and are challenged to run from some of the world's most highly skilled investigators.

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