CBS Executives Got Raked Over the Coals About Diversity Issues at the Network

Image via AP.
Image via AP.

With the highly publicized departure of two Asian actors from CBS’s Hawaii Five-O and continued pressure on media creators to incorporate diversity into their line-ups, it’s no wonder that the network’s execs got a lot of hard questions at their Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday.


Variety reports that CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl and senior executive vice president Thom Sherman had to contend with the Hawaii Five-O drama once again. They chose to stick with their position that the dynamics of Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park’s departure had no racial component, though both actors had supposedly been seeking to be paid the same as their white co-stars, Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan:

Kahl did not go into details of the negotiation, saying, “In my mind it was purely a business transaction.” He characterized the departure of veteran actors as natural for a show entering its eighth season. “It’s happened on ‘CSI,’ it’s happened on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ it’s happened on ‘Law and Order: SVU.’”

The issue of diversity at CBS was brought up in general, with one questioner pointing out that there hasn’t been a new women-led show at CBS in two seasons. Sherman protested that the network had developed women-led pilots, and that CBS is home to many shows with diverse casts and strong female characters, like Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane the Virgin and The Flash.

But as the Wrap points out, the six series that were picked up featured white men leads, except for the Shemar Moore-led S.W.A.T. Deadline reports that Sherman has a legitimate reason for that:

“CBS did develop female shows and did six pilots with female leads but those pilots were not felt to be as good (as those that were picked up),” Sherman said.

They simply weren’t as good!

According to Deadine, one critic pointed out that two characters in pilots developed by CBS last season were written as minorities, but ultimately cast as white men. CBS’s entire casting department also consists solely of white men, but neither exec thinks this is relevant:

Kahl contended that “I personally don’t think that has anything to do with it, noting that CBS head of casting Peter Golden and his team “have been together for a long time.” “They have cast many, many diverse roles.”

Added Sherman, “They have been together for long time in that department but we are cognizant of the issue. We hear you and are looking to expand the casting department.”


Sherman did say they are working on expanding their circle of talent by asking agencies to tell writers to bring the network their “passion projects” and not assume they know what a CBS show is. But maybe they should worry about what a CBS show will turn into?

Correction: Sherman’s remarks about shows with diverse casting were in reference to his own track record with development, not CBS. We regret the error.

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin



Lost and Grey’s are ABC shows. Crazy Ex Gf, Jane the Virgin, and the Flash are CW shows. How can CBS possibly take credit for them?