People Took To Twitter to Protest NBC's All-Black Cast of "The Wiz"

December 4th 2015

Taylor Bell

Leading up to last night's NBC premiere of "The Wiz Live!," some people took to social media to condemn the network's decision to feature an all-black cast.

The Wiz, which is a Broadway musical inspired by "The Wizard of Oz," featured performances by Queen Latifah as the Wiz, singer Ne-Yo as the Tin Man, David Allen Grier as the Cowardly Lion, Elijah Kelly as the Scarecrow, and newcomer Shanice Willams as Dorothy. But many Twitter users weren't happy, calling the network's decision to feature an all-black cast racist.

But those Twitter users were met with backlash themselves, with most people pointing out that the classic "Wizard Oz" film from 1939 included an all-white cast.

Others brought up that this is not the first time that a production of "The Wiz" featured an all-black cast. The first was in 1975 and then again in 1978 when it was made into a movie. The cast for that film included late singer Michael Jackson, singer Diana Ross, and comedian Richard Pryor. In fact, the tradition of "The Wiz" over the years has been to intentionally retell the story of "The Wizard of Oz" with black characters.

Related: The Subtle Hollywood Racism Nobody Talks About

When asked about the production of "The Wiz Live" days before its Thursday night premiere, NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt talked about the significance of featuring black performers on television. 

"We're in a moment in time on television where there are more African American viewers watching than ever before. I hope they come, but I also hope it's a really diverse audience,"  Greenblatt told the LA Times. "I think there's something about taking the current discussion of an African American moment and mixing it with a classic."

However, according to the 2015 UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report, minorities are still underrepresented on the big screen and and small screen. The report found that white-led roles outnumber those in film and television 2-1 and 6-1 respectively.