Aziz Ansari Gets Real About The Lack Of Diversity On TV

November 11th 2015

Laura Donovan

During an appearance on CBS' "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," Aziz Ansari called out the network for its lack of diversity.

At the beginning of the segment, Colbert acknowledged that both are from South Carolina and that Colbert is the first South Carolinian to host a late night show. But Ansari also mentioned that Colbert is the "bajillionth" white guy to host a late night talk show.

"You've talked about not enough people of color, minorities, represented on television," Colbert said. "[Does] having you on my show count at all?"

"Yeah," Ansari said. "It's really diverse right now. It's like 50 percent diverse [between the two of us]. This is like an all-time high for CBS. You did that."

Ansari also pokes fun at CBS series "The Big Bang Theory" in his new Netflix series, "Master of None," which tackles race issues as well.

Jokes aside, Ansari confronted a major issue in television, which is often criticized for lacking diversity, both onscreen and behind the scenes. CBS even has a Diversity Institute program to encourage more people of color to pursue work in the entertainment field, but many believe that there is still a lot of work to be done.

In a recent New York Times piece, Ansari reveals that the first Indian character he ever saw onscreen was in the 1988 film "Short Circuit 2." Upon doing some research, Ansari was disappointed that the actor was actually a white guy playing an Indian fellow.

"Seeing an Indian character in a lead role had a powerful effect on me, but it was only as I got older that I realized what an anomaly it was," he wrote. "As a child, I thought the villain of the film was Oscar Baldwin, the banker who tricks Johnny 5 into helping him commit a jewel heist. As an adult, I thought the bad guy was actually [the white actor], who mocked my ethnicity."

"How to Get Away With Murder" star Viola Davis has also confronted the lack of diversity in TV and entertainment at large. When she became the first Black woman to win an Emmy for best lead actress in a dramatic television series this year, she delivered a powerful speech about race in the industry.

"The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity," Davis said, adding that there aren't many parts for diverse actors to begin with. "You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there."


Viola Davis' remarks about diversity in Hollywood are worth your applause. #Emmys2015

Posted by ATTN: on Sunday, September 20, 2015


Last year, she told the New York Times that she has had trouble landing fulfilling roles that exercise her potential.

“I have been given a lot of roles that are downtrodden, mammy-ish,” Davis said. “A lot of lawyers or doctors who have names but absolutely no lives. You’re going to get your three or four scenes, you’re not going to be able to show what you can do. You’re going to get your little bitty paycheck, and then you’re going to be hungry for your next role, which is going to be absolutely the same. That’s the truth.”