Posted by: libbywilbur3 | February 12, 2019

Color/Gender in Casting

In my theater history class, we often discuss different ways shows can be cast and ultimately say that you can cast how you want, as long as it supports some kind of artistic vision or theme you are trying to draw out of the piece. Otherwise, we tend to say cast as scripted. But there is hot debate over that, too, since most scripts are full of white people and a lot of men, which leads to many people possibly never getting cast.

The article I have attached below from the Los Angeles Times discusses this phenomenon recently. Before, people would cast based on the script, until they realized many people weren’t getting opportunities to act because they didn’t fit certain roles. So colorblind casting came into play, where people ignored color and sometimes gender, and cast people into roles based on their talent and ability to play the part. The article says that now, we are leaning more toward color-conscious casting. It got to a point where people are getting cast because they are a different race or a different gender. People often get mad when shows are white-washed when they shouldn’t be or a man plays a transgender character, instead of using a transgender actor. It becomes blurry and fuzzy on what is right and what is wrong for the show and to also be socially aware and responsible.

My biggest question and concern with all of this is: do we continue to worry about casting people diversely in shows or do we instead make shows that allow diverse casting to be possible so they have representation? Or does that lead us to new shows that strictly need diverse casts and leaves more white-dominated communities to only do older shows out of fear of white-washing a performance? If more shows were made that specifically asked for different ethnicities and genders, would that eliminate white actors? Where does the role of the director, the leader of shows, come in? Does their artistic vision get shot because of social pressures to be inclusive? Does too much inclusivity become exclusive at some point?

As an aspiring director, I see this tie to leadership often because directors have to make these choices and most of the casting decisions. Much of the time we are concerned with the talent, but more often we have become aware of the social context we are working within. As a female director, I hope to do shows with a lot of women, but that does not mean men are left out. But is it bad if they become a smaller part of the show? Also, actors cast in the big roles often go on to gain fame, money, awards, and more opportunities. They become role models, but if all the role models look the same, what does that say to kids or aspiring thespians? How do we integrate inclusivity, diversity, and intersectionality into our films and theatrical productions effectively?


  1. I really liked your post especially since this a topic you seem very familiar with and is of much interest to you. I do not know much about the process of casting, directing, producing, etc. within the film industry so a lot of this information is new, which is good cause I get to learn and expand my knowledge. One thing that I found interesting was the idea of colorblind casting. I think casting a person based solely on their talent and ability to act should be the most important element to look at. Casting people to fit a role seems unfair because most roles seem to look for the same type of people, but if people were chosen based on colorblind casting, even if they don’t fit the role, I think adjusting the role to fit the person would allow for more diversity and change in what is produced. I understand that some people are selected based on being different from the norm, but when shows or movies steer away from the norm, using actual people who fit that role will better represent that is trying to be portrayed.

    I think with the new shows that are being created, it is allowing for more diverse casting, rather than making a conscious effort to diversely cast. I wouldn’t necessarily say that the creation of these new shows would lead to the white-dominated community only being represented in older shows, but allowing for more diversity in the entire cast seems like the best solution. Not all new shows need to only include minority groups and exclude white actors, but a greater inclusion of a more diverse cast will help younger kids understand and learn how to be inclusive of all races and genders. When I think about a diverse cast, my first thought is from the show This is Us. The cast of this show includes people of different color and gender along with different physical features. Having a diverse cast allows to bring more authenticity to the dialogue and storylines. Allowing for more inclusivity in the selection of casts and demonstrating diversity can teach younger kids how to integrate themselves into groups of different race and gender.

  2. I thought that your post was really thought-provoking since I can honestly say that I don’t know much at all about theater! I loved how you brought in what you know and have learned in classes and related it with the article chosen, which was also interesting and well-written too. This to me feels somewhat like a double bind in a different light – people can cast for the best person for the role, potentially ending up with a less diverse cast that is frowned upon, or they can cast for diversity and reality, and still end up being judged for not casting the right person or actor for the role. When I read your post, I instantly thought of how Hamilton changed the ethnicities of the founding fathers to best represent how diverse America is today and put wonderful actors on the stage, and how there are people who either love this about the play or dislike it. At the end of your blog you stated that big-name actors make most of the money, but if they all look the same, how does that impact people who may not look that way – I loved this, since it is something that both women and people of color often face regarding leadership, not simply in theater. Conscientious casting is definitely important in that it helps show the diversity of people and of talent that many overlooked actors have.

  3. Your post is very interesting and something I have never though about before. As I was reading the part about colorblind casting, I immediately thought about the movie Hairspray. I feel like in this movie (and play), the race of the different cast members is very important to the plot of the story. If you haven’t seen it before, the movie is about racial segregation of a popular TV show. In this situation, where different races are necessary for the plot, I do not think that colorblind casting is appropriate. However, in other shows and plays, I think the director should cast based off of talent and who seems right for the part. Another interesting fact about the movie Hairspray, is they had a male actor, John Travolta, play a woman. I don’t know much about this situation, but I believe that they casted him to play a woman because he worked well for the part. I also remember seeing plays before where women were casted to play young boys because women’s voices were not deep.

  4. I really enjoyed the questions that you brought up in this post, and I love the discussion that it has prompted and the ideas that it touches on. I have actually noticed this in a lot of popular television shows, rather than movies, that I have seen-often times, there are at least one or two colored cast members or female characters (and this is true more for some shows than others), but I have always found myself wondering if the characters were just there for “tokenism” or not. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched “30 Rock”, but there’s this one episode that is actually kind of self aware about this–the characters are trying to figure out if their presence at NBC/working for their TV show was because of their talent or because of the fact that they were in the minority. It’s pretty funny if you’ve never seen it. Anyways, I think that there is a need to strike a pretty clear balance between focusing too much on incorporating diversity and not including enough diversity, and it reminds me of some of the more foundational ideas that we’ve talked about in class. Namely, it reminds me of the fact that actors and people with talent should be celebrated for their talents instead of their gender or the color of their skin.

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