After taking heat last year for premiering six new shows with white male leads, CBS Entertainment President Glenn Geller took an opportunity at the TCAs to reaffirm the network’s commitment to “do better.” For a Hollywood minute, it seemed that might be the case. Doubt starring Laverne Cox and Katherine Heigl seemed promising, but was pulled from broadcast after only two episodes, leaving the network once again with two midseason shows (Ransom and Training Day) that starred white men as the headliners.
If audiences and critics were hoping CBS would right the diversity ship once scripts for the 2017-2018 season started coming in, those hopes were dashed this week when The Wrap broke the news that Mission Control will replace two characters who were specifically written as PoC (People of Color) with white actors. David Giuntoli (Grimm) will take on the lead role, which scriptwriter Andy Weir (The Martian) specifically wrote as an African-American character, while Poppy Montgomery (Without A Trace) has been cast as a character who was originally the bilingual child of a white father and Latina mother. That part of the character has now been altered to accommodate Montgomery’s casting.
Now, Uproxx has learned, via a source close to the production, that another CBS show Living Biblically replaced yet another African-American character with a white actor. Sources close to the production have told us that actress Camryn Manheim (Person of Interest) has been offered a role for a character who was originally called Mr. Meadows. In the pilot script, written by Patrick Walsh (2 Broke Girls), Mr. Meadows is described as “45, African-American, No-Nonsense Boss.”
Uproxx reached out to CBS for comment. An official spokesperson replied:
“Living Biblically is an inclusive pilot in which four of the six stars are diverse or female. The characters in the pilot also represent various genders, ethnicities, and religions.”
A second source close to the Living Biblically production confirmed the show hoped that recasting Mr. Meadows as a lesbian woman would balance the ratio of men to women in the series and help offset the criticism of removing a character of color.
The casting of Manheim, Giuntoli, and Montgomery now makes three characters in two pilots that CBS has recast with white actors. While Manheim is always a welcome presence and it’s refreshing to see another LGBT character on television, the revision remains part of a disturbing trend and one that seems particularly to give CBS trouble. Diversity is not interchangeable. Recasting Mr. Meadows as a woman isn’t an issue in and of itself; surely there are plenty of black actresses who would’ve been up for tackling the role. In the year 2017, casting departments shouldn’t be choosing between minorities or women. Both exist, often in the same bodies.