General Question

KatawaGrey's avatar

Are there many shows that star non-caucasian actors as the main characters?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21365 points ) March 25th, 2009

As I was watching television today, I realized that I have not seen a lot of shows wherein any of the main characters are not white. I’ve seen plenty of shows with secondary characters that are not white. Even some shows with large casts where a large number of people are the main characters have those few non white actors. For example, Firefly has a main cast of between 8 and 10 (I can’t remember at the moment, forgive me fellow Whedonites) and two of them are black, but what of other shows? Can you give some examples?

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22 Answers

tinyfaery's avatar

Private Practice
Grey’s Anatomy
ER
Ugly Betty

I would say all of the above are very diverse. There might be more minority characters than whites on Ugly Betty.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head at the moment.

elijah's avatar

Bernie Mac Show
George Lopez Show
One On One
Everyone Hates Chris
Sister Sister
The Jeffersons
The Cosby Show
A Different World

aprilsimnel's avatar

The NY Times had an article about this issue just last week.

Blondesjon's avatar

There are a few but I hear that backstage they still all use separate drinking fountains and restrooms.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

sister sister? lol that’s all I’ve got at the moment, if it’s not the history, discover, or Science channel I really don’t watch a lot of TV

marinelife's avatar

The Unit

KatawaGrey's avatar

Thanks everyone who answered so far. @aprilsimnel: That’s an interesting article thanks for the link.

osakarob's avatar

I really love the fact that two of the main ensemble cast on LOST are Asian.

Other programs with diverse casts have included:

Homicide: Life on the Street
The Wire
CSI
ER
Heroes
Law & Order
30 Rock

J0E's avatar

Watch anything that Tyler Perry has made.

kenmc's avatar

Looney tunes. They weren’t people. They were aminals :)

alossforwords's avatar

I want to see Samuel L Jackson as the lead detective on CSI Detroit.

RedPowerLady's avatar

You are so right. The fact that we have to sit and think about which shows star main characters of different ethnicities is telling in itself. We need more diversity. And we need shows staring people from non-common cultures. How about a show with a polynesian as the main character?? Or what about a show with a Native American as the main actor (after all this is the U.S. and I’m Native). Also the majority of shows that star characters who are from diverse cultures emphasize that culture. What about just typical shows with main characters who are diverse? Anyhow I really think this needs to be addressed. It is about celebrating diversity and promoting self-esteem for people from every ethnicity. In fact many actors who portray a certain ethnicity are in fact from a different one.

I do love the show George Lopez and that is the only one I can think of off the top of my head.

MrItty's avatar

Are you asking about shows that have ANY non-caucasians among the primary cast? In addition to those already listed:

Scrubs (black man & Latina woman)
Pushing Daisies (black man)
House (black man)

Or are you asking about shows in which the majority of the cast is non-caucasian? In that case, look at about half the shows on the old UPN, which is now part of CW.

ubersiren's avatar

The PJ’s.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@MrItty: I was referring to shows wherein the main characters aren’t all white. I don’t watch House very much but I am given to understand that the doctor to whom you are referring is a supporting actor (House being the main character and the rest of the cast being a supporting cast). I guess the root of my question is about mixed race casts and why there are so few.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I think there are so many reasons that people from ethnic cultures aren’t cast in tv shows as main characters or even as supporting characters. First of all we have to think of what it takes to get into the entertainment industry and often it takes money which many people from ethnic diversities do not have as much of as people from the majority culture. So the amount of ethnic actors is a smaller pool to choose from. Also I know for a fact that you must look like your race stereotypically to be cast in a show. I have heard several African-American women say how they couldn’t get into the entertainment industry because they are not Black enough or not light skinned enough. Same for Native Americans. You have to look “indian” and the stereotypical “indian” look isn’t what most people look like. So these further reduces the pool of actors to choose from. When people are cast they are often cast as a token or as the ethnic person and their race is always in question. Even in House. House often talks about the “black guys” culture even if it is just jokes. This makes people from ethnic cultures non-normal, they are the “black guy” or the “asian girl” and not the doctor or the housewife. The entertainment industry just doesn’t cast people of color in roles where their ethnicity isn’t a part of the show, very rarely they do this. There really needs to be a movement to include people of color in the entertainment industry as actors not as token actors.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@RedPowerLady: What a well thought out answer! I agree with you completely. I would love to see a how where the entire cast of characters was chosen based solely on acting ability and nothing else. Some of the best actors I have seen are the minority actors who never made it big because they never get cast in roles that don’t require a stereotype of some sort. I just think it’s sad to see that kind of talent wasted because the roles are filled by people who were chosen based on race.

I think the problem is also that the audience expects to see certain people in certain roles. An excellent example is when the lord of rings movies were being shot. they were all shot in New Zealand so, naturally, there would be a number of Maori extras. Apparently, there were some issues casting extras to play elves because the elves are “supposed to be” very fair so the Maori extras playing elves were shoved to the back so no one would see that not all the elves had pale skin and light eyes.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@KatawaGrey Thank you for your compliment.
You are so right. I was trying to think of a way to verbalize that part of the problem but couldn’t do it. I think you hit it right on. Viewers expect to see certain things and complain when they don’t or ratings go down when they don’t see what they expect. At the same time this expectation is largely created by the media because they define our standards of beauty and largely create or expectations.

BBQsomeCows's avatar

who cares?

the focus of the question seems a bit racist.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@BBQsomeCows: Wow, did you just decide to go through and pick at all the questions involving race? The focus of the question is racist, that is to say that tv shows tend to have mostly white leads.

tinyfaery's avatar

I know katawa. What a waste of my fluthering. What a great new member.~

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