Disney TV chairman says ABC passed on ‘well-written scripts’ that did not meet diversity standards


Dana Walden, the chairman of entertainment for Walt Disney Television, recently said ABC passed on ‘well-written scripts’

Dana Walden, the chairman of entertainment for Walt Disney Television, recently said during a panel discussion that ABC passed on ‘some incredibly well-written scripts’ because they did not meet its new diversity standards.

Walden made the comments during panel discussion titled ‘Women in Focus: Women, Big Tech and the Future of Hollywood’ put on by Chapman University and Glamour on April 9, the Hollywood Reporter revealed.

Last year, the outlet reported that ABC was calling for at least 50% representation of ‘underrepresented groups’ in regular and recurring characters – as well as with writing staff and producers.

‘I will tell you for the first time we received some incredibly well-written scripts that did not satisfy our standards in terms of inclusion, and we passed on them,’ Walden said during the panel discussion. 

Walden admitted that ABC even passed on one show about a white family that would have included a diverse cast of friends and neighbors. 

‘Pass. That’s not going to get on the air anymore because that’s not what our audience wants. That’s not a reflection of our audience, and I feel good about the direction we’re moving,’ she said.

The mostly white cast members are seen in an upcoming episode of Home Economics on ABC

The mostly white cast members are seen in an upcoming episode of Home Economics on ABC

Mr Sunshine, featuring Matt Perry about a man who manages The Sunshine Centre, a second rate sports arena in San Diego

Mr Sunshine, featuring Matt Perry about a man who manages The Sunshine Centre, a second rate sports arena in San Diego

The guidelines announced by ABC also include ‘meaningful integration of Underrepresented Groups in overall themes and narratives’ and ‘ongoing meaningful integration of Underrepresented Groups in episodic themes and narratives.’

Shows in ABC’s lineup currently appear to already specifically address diversity with titles like its long-running Blackish series and its spin-off Mixedish – though other existing shows The Connors and The Goldbergs have largely white cast.

In January, ABC announced its new show Home Economics which premiered last week. The show stars Topher Grace, who is white, with a largely white cast.

Walden also revealed during the panel discussion that Disney will soon announce a new ‘BIPOC’ programming initiative at Hulu, referring to the term for black, indigenous and people of color.

That initiative will be run by Tara Duncan who is the current president of Freeform, according to the Hollywood Reporter. 

‘It is programming that is by BIPOC storytellers, for BIPOC audiences, curated by executives of color, high-level leaders inside of our organization,’ Walden said.

Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, also sat on the panel and teased a ‘big inclusion policy,’ according to the outlet. 

‘We have to step out there aggressively and make it happen,’ she said. ‘I see huge changes.’

An episode of Station 19 set to air April 22 will address grief counseling 'in the wake of national outcry after the tragic murder of an unarmed black man'

An episode of Station 19 set to air April 22 will address grief counseling ‘in the wake of national outcry after the tragic murder of an unarmed black man’

Stacey Abrams, a Democrat voting rights activist who has largely been credited for the results of the run-off election for two United States Senate seats in Georgia, also spoke during the panel discussion.

‘I was very clear that my goal was to make certain that the Biden Harris team got elected and that I would do whatever I could to make them successful in their endeavors but I did not seek a position in the White House itself,’ Abrams said to the panel.

‘I do know there’s a governor’s race coming up in ’22 but I’m working on making sure we have democracy in Georgia in ’22. That’s currently my focus.’ 

The Hollywood Reporter revealed on Tuesday that Sharon Klein has been named the new executive vice-president of casting at Walt Disney Television.

According to the outlet, she will oversee casting teams at: ABC Entertainment, 20th Television, ABC Signature, 20th TV Animation, Walt Disney TV Alternative, Hulu Originals and Freeform.



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