Earlier this week, KTLA's entertainment reporter Sam Rubin interviewed Samuel Jackson about his upcoming film, "Robocop." But moments into the interview, things went horribly wrong when Rubin asked the actor about a Superbowl commercial.
Jackson became outraged, thinking the reporter had mistaken him for another black actor. Rubin went on to apologize, profusely, while Jackson went on to say there's more than one black guy doing commercials.
He's right, but Rubin's mistake highlights the fact that people of color are underrepresented in commercials, TV and film. It's something UCLA professor Darnell Hunt has been researching as part of his latest Hollywood diversity report.
On the findings of the study:
"What we see is that women and minorities are underrepresented in film leads, as film directors, from writers, broadcast leads, cable leads, reality leads. I mean we looked at a number of different arenas and the only question really was the degree of marginalization and underrepresentation, which really extended from not as bad, in fact women reached proportionate representation among broadcast leads, to just extreme.
On why it's difficult for women/minorities to land these jobs:
"I think it's a function of the way the industry is structured. It's an industry that is incredibly high risk. People get into the business and they are trying to insure that the project is going to be successful so they tend to surround themselves with people who think like themselves, who often look like them. You're starting in an industry that's already primarily dominated by white males, that means that the people that they are going to tend to pick are also going to be white males. It becomes very difficult for women and minorities to break in in a meaningful way."
On why women are better represented in television:
"Broadcast of course is trying to, generally speaking, get the largest audience possible across a range of different demographics so where we do see statistics nearing proportionate representation tends to be in broadcast television for women. Minorities ironically don't do quite as well on broadcast TV, because of the fact that you have something like a BET or even VH1, which has quite a bit of programming that's skewed toward urban audiences. So there are differences in the different mediums, but I think the thing that all of the mediums have in common is that underrepresentation is the norm."
On the economic incentives to diversify:
"One of the things that hits us over the head is that shows that have more cast diversity in movies, that have more cast diversity do better in terms of the bottom line. If you think about where the nation is going demographically, the fact that the audience is becoming more diverse and people like to see their own experiences represented on the screen, they resonate more with viewers. When you see people look like you on the screen, you tend to be more engaged and you may come back, if it's a TV show or you may go out to the theatre if it's a film."
On how we can improve diversity in TV and film:
"I don't believe there's a silver bullet. I don't think there's any one person or one corner of the industry to blame. It's sort of a systemic problem that really needs to be addressed on many fronts, on many levels…We have a slew of diversity programs that really amount to lottery systems. You're giving opportunities to one or two people when there are thousands who need to be incorporated in the industry in a meaningful way. So until there is something that happens structurally, I'm afraid we're going to see the same numbers and be having the same conversation next year and the year after and so forth."