Jarett Wieselman

NBC Has Launched A Program To Hire More Female Directors

BEVERLY HILLS — Acclaimed director Lesli Linka Glatter has partnered with NBC to launch Female Forward, a new initiative designed to get more female directors jobs in television. The news was announced on Thursday during the Television Critics Association summer press tour.

The program, which was codeveloped with NBC President Jennifer Salke, will provide 10 burgeoning female directors with the chance to shadow up to three episodes of an NBC program. Those directors will then helm at least one episode of the show they’ve shadowed on.

“It shouldn’t be harder for our daughters to direct than for our sons. It should be an equal playing field,” Glatter — who’s worked on Mad Men, Homeland, and NBC’s upcoming Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders — said in a statement. “I’m truly optimistic that … we can actually make a difference. A program like this is a game changer and it’s an honor to be a part of it.”

The need for more female directors has become a major conversation in Hollywood over the last few years. FX and CBS have made efforts to employ more women in behind-the-scenes roles. On Queen Sugar, Ava DuVernay solely hires female directors, while in 2016, Ryan Murphy launched Half — a foundation within his production company which aims to have 50% of all director jobs on his shows taken by women or minority candidates (defining minority as people of color or members of the LGBT community).

These initiatives have already resulted in a small increase in the number of female directors working in television. According to the Directors Guild of America, in the 2015–16 television season women directed 17.1% of episodes, an increase from 15.8% in the 2014–15 season.

The Female Forward initiative will launch with NBC’s 2018–19 TV season.

Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.

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Meet The CW's New Muslim-American Superhero

BEVERLY HILLS — DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has added a new character for Season 3: Zari, a Muslim-American hacktivist from the year 2042, played by Iranian-American actor Tala Ashe.

The show’s executive producers, Phil Klemmer and Marc Guggenheim, created the character, in part, as a response to the anti-Muslim rhetoric that permeated Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and his first six months in office, they revealed at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Wednesday.

“A lot of my work as an artist has been about representing not only Muslim characters, but immigrant characters or third culture kids in an accurate, nuanced way,” Ashe told BuzzFeed News after the Legends panel at TCA. “I’m definitely looking to further do that on this show. I think it’s very powerful to see yourself expressed in media and speaking specifically to the Muslim-American thing. Because of the climate of our world and what’s going on, I think the depictions primarily in media and of course in the news have been overwhelmingly negative about Muslims and Muslim-Americans. So I think it’s even more essential.”

Ashe, who grew up in Ohio and studied acting in Boston and London, understands how important it is to see yourself and your experiences reflected on screen. “Representation is a really powerful thing,” she told reporters. “I know that when I was growing up, when I watched television, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me. It broadens your perspective and I think what’s so lovely about the show is the Legends are this tapestry that reflects the America of today.”

Ashe and Guggenheim both pointed out that being a Muslim-American isn’t Zari’s defining characteristic, just as being bisexual isn’t the defining characteristic of Sara Lance (Caity Lotz). “I think it’s important to say what [Zari] is in the same way we say Caity’s character is bisexual,” Ashe said. “And if that comes up in a storyline, we address it. If it doesn’t, it’s not sort of the thing on my forehead all the time. I think that’s really smart and it hasn’t been done as often as I wish it would be done. … She’s just as American as she is Muslim.”

Ashe noted there have been many Muslim characters on television and in film. But, she said, “I haven’t encountered many like this who are being represented as like, this is just another person who is part of the tapestry of America. That I love.”

Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.

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CBS Is Being Confronted About Its Lack Of Diversity Yet Again

BEVERLY HILLS — In August 2016, Glenn Geller, CBS’s then-executive vice president of programming, was asked to defend his network’s fall slate at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. The lineup was comprised of six new shows, all with white male leads.

Fast-forward to today, when the new heads of CBS Entertainment — President Kelly Kahl and Senior Executive Vice President of Programming Thom Sherman — were asked at TCA to do the exact same thing. Its 2017–2018 fall slate features only one show with a non-white lead: S.W.A.T.‘s Shemar Moore.

“We want our slate to be inclusive,” Sherman said. “We want it to be diverse. We want all sorts of programming — all sorts of different types of programming, and we believe that we will get that.”

When pressed that the network’s glacial change in terms of inclusivity and representation has let it get bypassed by nearly every other network, Kahl said: “We can debate or have a discussion about the pace of the change, but there is change happening on CBS. We have two shows with diverse leads this year that we didn’t have on the schedule last year; we have a midseason show with a lead character who is gay [Alan Cumming on Instinct], and over the last few years, if you look at the number of diverse series regulars, it’s up almost 60%. The number of writers we have with diverse backgrounds is up over the last few years, as is directors. So we are absolutely moving in the right direction. We are making progress.”

Variety’s Mo Ryan pointed out that one of CBS’s issues may stem from the fact that its casting departments, on both coasts, are comprised entirely of white people. Kahl didn’t see the correlation. “I personally don’t think that has anything to do with it,” he said. “They’re fantastic at what they do. They cast all the roles I spoke about — many, many diverse roles.”

Sherman, however, acknowledged that the all-white team is a possible factor worth looking into further. “We are cognizant of the issue. We hear you, and we will be looking to expand the casting department,” he said.

CBS’s lack of a diversity hasn’t hurt its bottom line. Coming into the new season, it is No. 1 in total viewers, and, also in total viewers, it has the No. 1 comedy (The Big Bang Theory), the No. 1 new comedy (Kevin Can Wait), the No. 1 drama (NCIS), and the No. 1 new drama (Bull) on broadcast.

Toward the end of the panel, a reporter asked why any writer with a show that accurately reflects the diverse landscape of America would want to work with CBS.

“We said in the past we are going to do better [and] we are,” Kahl said. “Every single drama on our air has at least one diverse regular character. I’m not sure what else I can tell you at this point that we haven’t said. We’re moving in the right direction.”

Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.

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Disney's Princess Gathering Left Sarah Silverman Speechless

At Disney’s D23 Expo on July 14 in Anaheim, California, Paige O’Hara (Belle in Beauty and the Beast), Irene Bedard (Pocahontas in Pocahontas), Mandy Moore (Rapunzel in Tangled), Auli’i Cravalho (Moana in Moana), Kristen Bell (Anna in Frozen), Kelly Macdonald (Merida in Brave), Anika Noni Rose (Tiana in The Princess and the Frog), Linda Larkin (Jasmine in Aladdin), and Jodi Benson (Ariel in The Little Mermaid) joined Silverman on stage.

Here's What The President Of HBO Had To Say About The “Game Of Thrones” Showrunners' Controversial Slave Series

BEVERLY HILLS — Casey Bloys, president of programming at HBO, defended the network’s decision to pick up Confederate, a new series from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss that’s set in a world in which the American South won the Civil War and slavery remained legal. When the show was announced in mid-July, it was met with almost-immediate and very vocal backlash.

“We assumed the response. We assumed it would be controversial,” Bloys said at the Television Critics Association 2017 summer press tour on Wednesday. “The idea that we would be able to announce an idea that is so sensitive and requires such care and thought on the part of the producers in a press release was misguided on our part.” He continued, “My hope is people will judge the actual material as opposed to what it could be or should be or might be. We will rise or fall on the quality of that material. … It’s a risk worth taking.”

Shortly after Confederate was announced on July 19, writer Roxane Gay tweeted, “It is exhausting to think of how many people at HBO said yes to letting two white men envision modern day slavery. And offensive.” Supergirl star David Harewood tweeted, “Good luck finding black actors for this project.” The Daily Show aired a segment about Confederate and the response the announced garnered.

In aftermath of the negative response, Benioff, Weiss, and executive producers Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman did an interview with Vulture. In it, they also said they anticipated the backlash, but, Nichelle pointed out: “I wish their concern had been reserved to the night of the premiere, on HBO, on a Sunday night, when they watched and then they made a decision after they watched an hour of television as to whether or not we succeeded in what we set out to do.”

“You know, we might fuck it up. But we haven’t yet,” added Benioff.

Malcolm noted that “what people have to understand is … We’ve got black aunties. We’ve got black nephews, uncles. Black parents and black grandparents. We deal with them every single day.” He also said that when Benioff and Weiss first pitched Confederate to him and his wife, Nichelle, he told them, “You’re dealing with weapons-grade material here.“

In its press release announcing Confederate — which will go into production following the final season of Game of Thrones — HBO said the drama “chronicles the events leading to the Third American Civil War. The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone – freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.”

Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.

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Why “Broad City” Is Treating Trump's Name Like A Curse Word

BEVERLY HILLS — When the fourth season of Broad City premieres on Sept. 13, its characters, who supported Hillary Clinton in Season 3, will be grappling with the realities of a Donald Trump presidency — but audiences won’t be hearing Trump’s name. The stars and creators of the Comedy Central series, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, decided to treat the president’s name like a curse word and bleep it out of the show.

“We just got to a point where, in real life…we’re talking about Trump and it, like, sounds so gross every day, saying it so many times. We just didn’t want to share airtime. He’s got enough,” Glazer said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills on Tuesday. “I also don’t even want to hear the word.”

“Everyone we know, this is a thing that’s happening right now [so] this is happening in the other Abbi and Ilana’s lives,” Jacobson said of her and Glazer’s Broad City characters. “This is something they’re going to be talking about all the time. This is existing. For us to not be talking about it as friends in the show would have been insane. It would have felt wrong.”

Jacobson and Glazer themselves were staunch Clinton supporters — the former presidential candidate even appeared as herself in Season 3 of Broad City. But the “audio joke,” as they called it, wasn’t always part of their plan for Season 4 because, when they began to write it in May 2016, a Trump victory didn’t seem likely. After Jacobson and Glazer took a hiatus to work on various projects and reunited post-election to work on Season 4, they had to figure out how to weave Trump’s win into the fabric of their show.

Broad City inherently has an “intersectional feminist message,” they said at TCA, because they are its stars, writers, and creators — and they feel they have an obligation to continue using the show as a social and political platform now more than ever. “I think you can see in the industry right now, everybody’s message is becoming clear,” Glazer said. “Because if you aren’t talking about the political landscape, that’s kind of something. … It’s not casual. And if you’re going to talk about it, you have to clearly state your beliefs and where you stand ethically or politically.”

Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.

Contact Jarett Wieselman at jarett.wieselman@buzzfeed.com.

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Celebrities Re-Created Awkward '80s Portraits And It's Hilarious

Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.

Contact Jarett Wieselman at jarett.wieselman@buzzfeed.com.

Keely Flaherty is a senior entertainment writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

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The Woman Who Steals Every Scene In “Girls Trip”

Michele K. Short / Universal Pictures

Tiffany Haddish as Dina in Girls Trip.

Tiffany Haddish can pinpoint the exact moment her life changed for the better.

It was 2004 and she was “homeless as fuck,” spending nights in her Geo Metro on the streets of Los Angeles. But she was trying to keep up appearances. “I made sure my nails were done, I made sure my hair stayed done, I could keep my armpits up with baby wipes, I tried to stay clean,” Haddish said of her self-proclaimed “classy homeless” facade.

The then-25-year-old LA native was angling for stage time at Hollywood’s famed Laugh Factory in hopes of realizing her dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian. But one night, as she was arriving late — per usual, so the other comics wouldn’t see her clearly lived-in car — another car pulled into the parking lot directly behind her. It was Kevin Hart, who Haddish had become friendly with on the comedy circuit. She tried to play off the fact that all her belongings were jam-packed inside her sedan, but Hart wasn’t fooled. After the show, he pulled her aside to talk in his car. He gave her $300 and told her to make a list of goals, both professional and personal, so she could get back on track.

Jerritt Clark / Getty Images

Haddish speaking at Culture Creators 2nd Annual Awards Brunch in June 2017.

“He noticed, and nobody really noticed,” Haddish said through tears over tea at Coffee Commissary in West Hollywood, a few miles away from the parking lot where everything changed. “I was homeless, I was hopeless, and he noticed. He didn’t try to take advantage of me. He helped me. Like an angel. It was a turning point for me.”

Haddish did what Hart suggested. Atop her list were practical goals: Move out of the Geo Metro, move into a real apartment, and buy some nice drapes. Farther down the list were dreams that felt utterly impossible at the time, like working with Danny DeVito, Dave Chappelle, and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Fast-forward 13 years and Haddish is living the kind of life she wished for that night in Hart’s car. (Hart was unavailable to comment on this story.) She’s a staple in the stand-up comedy scene, she’s costarred on Tyler Perry’s If Loving You Is Wrong, she’s worked with Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key in Keanu, and she routinely steals her scenes on NBC’s The Carmichael Show. She’s worked with DeVito on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, she’s opened for Chappelle on tour, and she’s about to costar with Pinkett Smith in the year’s funniest comedy, Girls Trip.

Michele K. Short / Universal Pictures

Queen Latifah as Sasha, Pinkett Smith as Lisa, Haddish as Dina, and Regina Hall as Ryan in Girls Trip.

In the film, Haddish plays Dina, one-fourth of a college crew nicknamed the Flossy Posse (rounded out by Queen Latifah and Regina Hall), who travel to Essence Fest in New Orleans in hopes of repairing their fractured friendship. Each woman has taken a different path since college: Pinkett Smith’s Lisa is a harried mother of two, Latifah’s Sasha is a formerly respected journalist now slumming it as a gossip blogger, Hall’s Ryan is an aspirational lifestyle guru, and Haddish’s Dina is living an emotionally stunted but totally joyous life as the group’s irrepressible free spirit.

Many of the same local New Orleans crew members who had worked on Keanu with Haddish signed on for Girls Trip, and after reading the script, they thought she would be perfect for Dina. Unbeknownst to one another, about a dozen crew members sent nearly identical emails to the comedian. “’You need to go audition for this.’ ‘This is your part,’” Haddish recalled of their messages, some of which included the script attached. When she read it, Haddish immediately felt a kinship with Dina. “I was like, whoever wrote this knows me,” she said. “Like, they must have partied with me at least once.”

But there was a hitch: The producers were looking for “a name,” — i.e., another famous actor to join Pinkett Smith, Latifah, and Hall, who had already signed on. So Haddish had a very simple (and very Dina-esque) suggestion for her manager. “I said, ‘Tell them I’ve had a name since 1979. I was born with a name. You tell them I need to come in.’” And that’s exactly what her manager did.

Michele K. Short / Universal Pictures

Haddish as Dina.

A series of improv-heavy auditions later, Haddish landed the role and found herself with three days to pack up her life in LA and fly to New Orleans. The opportunity offered Haddish something she’d been longing for — not just the chance to work with Pinkett Smith and check another item off her Kevin Hart–inspired to-do list, but the chance to create a character that tapped into her strongest skill set as a performer: physical comedy.

While white women in comedy — like Melissa McCarthy, Amy Schumer, Rebel Wilson, and Kate McKinnon — routinely use their physicality for laughs, Haddish noted that that freedom is not as readily available for black women. So when she began to create Dina in her mind, Haddish looked to a pair of her biggest comedy idols: Whoopi Goldberg and Charlie Chaplin. “Whoopi Goldberg in Jumpin’ Jack Flash was the first black woman I ever saw get to be really physical,” she said. “I am a comedy connoisseur, and when I got this role, I knew there’s a certain way I had to play it, because Dina could be considered the super nasty dirtiest chick in the world and people would hate her.”

That’s where Chaplin came in. “I studied him for a long time because he was doing bad stuff — hitting people, kicking things, hurting dogs, all kind of stuff — but he was always forgiven because he made it feel like childlike behavior. So I was like, if I can bring this childlike vibe to Dina and just be this wild teenage chick, people would be like, ‘She’s nasty and I like it because she’s so fucking sweet.’”

Haddish nails Dina’s duality. About halfway through Girls Trip, Dina not-so-accidentally doses her friend’s drinks with absinthe. As they all begin to trip, it comes to light that she’s responsible, but no one holds it against her, because you can’t help but like a girl who just wants to have fun.

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

Haddish at the 2017 NBCUniversal Summer Press Day in March 2017.

Haddish had been studying Goldberg, Chaplin, and more comedians ever since she was a child. Her first idol? Charles Fleischer, who voiced Roger Rabbit in 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit. “He’s the main reason why I even tried to be funny,” Haddish said. “There’s a scene in the movie where Eddie [Bob Hoskins] says to the rabbit, ‘Why are all of these people doing this nice stuff for you?’ And Roger says, ‘Because I make people laugh, Eddie! If you make people laugh, they’ll do anything for you,’” Haddish said, perfectly emulating Fleischer’s iconic Roger lisp. “I’m like, ‘That’s the ticket! That’s how I’ll get kids to help me do my homework! That’s how I’ll keep from getting beat up! That’s how I’ll keep from people talking bad about my mom.’ That was the beginning of everything for me.”

Haddish was born and raised by a single mother in South Los Angeles, along with her four siblings. When she was 9, her mother was in a serious car accident that Haddish links to her mother developing schizophrenia. From ages 9 to 13, Haddish assumed a maternal role to her siblings until all five kids were placed into foster care before they were able to move in with their grandmother. “Comedy was my saving grace,” she said. “What comedy did for me is it’s been able to make me look at a really bad situation and think, What’s funny about this? What about this is good? What about this can I take with me and be like, ‘Let me tell you a crazy story that happened to me?’ So people can be like, ‘That is so fucked up, but it’s hilarious.’”

Vivian Zink / NBC

Haddish on The Carmichael Show with Amber Stevens West.

As a teenager, Haddish had the opportunity to learn from Fleischer at Comedy Camp, a Laugh Factory community enrichment program that pairs inner-city kids with stand-up mentors. “It was the most wonderful thing in the world that could have ever happened to me,” she said. “It was the first time a man ever told me I was beautiful and I didn’t think something bad was going to happen. It’s the first time a man ever told me I was smart, it’s the first time a man sat me down and showed me how to construct a joke and gave me confidence and communication skills and showed me how to command a room and how to properly receive attention.”

She relied on her newfound comedic stylings to deflect negative attention growing up, calling the art form her “safe space.” For Haddish, comedy is “where I know that I can speak my mind and whether people agreed or disagreed with it, I’m not going to get beat up, I’m not going to get raped,” she said. “I enjoy being able to have a voice and being heard and sharing my truth onstage.”

Now Haddish is hoping she can use comedy to help her mother, too. “My mom is in a mental institution right now, and I think the main reason why I want to be so successful, why I want to do so much, is so that I can get her out of that institution and find the cure,” she said, as tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Because I think rich people be having the cure for crazy,” she continued, finding a way to joke through the tears. “I feel like if I get rich enough, I can put her on a holistic diet and give her these roots and herbs from South America that other people can’t get and then I get my genius mother back. I get my mother back who was good at doing business, who was good at loving her children, who was good at just listening and caring. I want that so bad. That’s why. That’s why.”


Haddish’s Showtime special, Tiffany Haddish: She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood.

Looking at the year ahead for Haddish, it would appear that she’s well on her way to checking off that most important item on her to-do list one day. The third and final season of The Carmichael Show ends in August, Showtime will air her stand-up special — Tiffany Haddish: She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood — on Aug. 18, and this fall she’ll costar as Tracy Morgan’s ex-wife on the new TBS comedy The Last O.G.

And while Haddish wants to build a career that can offer her the opportunity to help her mother and siblings, that can give her the chance to thank Kevin Hart for all his help, and that can eventually lead her to work with Will Ferrell (the last name on her 2004 wish list), the person Haddish constantly works to impress is herself. “I don’t feel like I need to be successful for others, I feel like I need to be successful for myself,” she said, pointing a perfectly manicured finger at her heart. “I need to be successful for that little girl who was 12 years old, sitting in freakin’ MacLaren Hall feeling like she was going to get beat up by the world and die tomorrow and not be anything. I honestly thought I would be a baby mama with five kids, four daddies; that was how I was going to have to make a living, because I couldn’t read, I couldn’t talk to people, I’m scared of everybody. I honestly felt like that was what I was going to have to do. ‘I’m gonna have to be a ho.’ Because that’s what I saw succeeding.”

Haddish stopped for a moment and used a napkin to wipe the tears from her eyes. “I’ve been through the shit,” she said, not as a knock against herself or a way to build herself up — just a simple fact. “I have come out of society’s asshole, but guess what?” She took another pause as a massive smile broke out across her face. “I’m the penny you swallowed. I’m magical!”●

Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.

Contact Jarett Wieselman at jarett.wieselman@buzzfeed.com.

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