Entertainment: UK’s ITV Says It Is Casting Diverse Actors In A Quarter Of Lead Roles

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Jason Watkins standing posing for the camera © ITV/Mammoth

ITV, the UK commercial broadcaster behind global hits like Downton Abbey and Midsomer Murders, has revealed that it is casting actors from diverse backgrounds in more than a quarter of lead roles in its drama series.

ITV published the figure in its Diversity Acceleration Plan report, which provides a health check on diversity and inclusion commitments made by the broadcaster in July last year, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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ITV said 26% of the available 2,886 lead roles in its dramas were filled by Black, Asian, and minority ethnic talent between July 2020 and April 2021. That’s a 33% increase on the same 10-month period to April 2020, when 572, or 21%, of 2,731 headline roles went to diverse talent.

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As an example of progress, the broadcaster pointed to the casting of Tala Gouveia in Mammoth Screen’s crime series McDonald & Dodds. Gouveia has previously told The Guardian that it “means a lot” to be a woman of color in a traditional British detective show.

ITV also revealed gains behind the scenes on drama series, where the percentage of writers of color contributing to projects on-air and in development has increased. In development, for example, 29% of shows were being worked up by writers from diverse backgrounds last year, compared with 6% in 2019.

The findings come after ITV’s Social Purpose Impact report for 2020 showed that diversity on-screen went backwards. Some 17.6% of all contributions were from BAME talent last year, which was down on 21.4% in 2019.

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There are also doubts at ITV over whether it will be able to hit its 15% diversity target for all staff by next year. As of 2020, 12.9% of ITV’s employees were from a Black, Asian, and minority ethnic background. Sources say the Covid crisis has impacted hiring.

In a foreword to the Diversity Acceleration Plan report, ITV CEO Carolyn McCall acknowledged that the pandemic has been a problem. “Lockdown made things harder to deliver on many fronts including some elements of this plan and there are further steps to reach all our targets,” she said.

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