Kerry Washington & Aziz Ansari Get Real About Diversity

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Kerry Washington and Aziz Ansari are already television legends. Washington is a revelation as Olivia Pope on Scandal. And Ansari has made waves both in front of the camera — as Tom Haverford in Parks & Recreation — and behind it, as the creator and star of Master of None.

So when they sat down as part of the fourth season of Variety’s and PBS’ Actors on Actors series to get real about diversity in television, we paid close attention.

Washington said she didn’t understand why TV was considered more diverse but chalked it up to more outlets through which to distribute content. Ansari agreed.

“Our show, it’s Indian guy, Asian guy, so there’s going to be more Indian people, Asian people,” he said. “We have a diverse group of friends and we didn’t even really think about it when we were making the show that ‘oh this is diverse.’ We were just like this feels real.”‘

Still, they agreed that the gatekeepers for media are overwhelmingly white.

“I saw this chart in the New York Times about like decision makers — the gatekeepers in every single industry — and it was like all white people,” Ansari said.

“It came out after Oscars so white and I loved that they did it because there was all this attention on Hollywood but it was like, ‘No no no. Every industry is so white,’” Washington said.

Ansari said that as a creator he felt increased pressure to bring more diversity into the fold.

“One thing I’ve thought about in going from season one to season two is now we’re in a position to help other people and in season two I’ve been like I gotta find — I gotta do just even more — and find even more actors of color and writers of color,” Ansari said.

It’s an interesting way to look at the ways in which we still have so far to go to bring the demographics of film and TV to match the demographic richness of America. Watch below to see the rest of their conversation.

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