Nonbinary and Black actors see big representation gains during pandemic, study finds

Episodic TV saw the largest gains in LGBTQ representation with 21.8 percent of projects having a queer actor, up from 19.3 percent pre-pandemic.

LOS ANGELES – Representation for Black and nonbinary actors has increased significantly in TV and film since the start of the pandemic, according to a study of how casting for scripted live-action content has changed over the past two years.

The research conducted by Variety Business Intelligence found that Black talent logged the highest rate of representation gains in episodic TV and film across racial and ethnic lines. Among the gender and LGBTQ breakdowns examined, nonbinary talent logged the biggest overall gains.

The study compared the the breakdowns of series regulars in episodic TV series and main-title cast members for movies released during two distinct periods: the 18 months leading up to the pandemic (Oct. 1, 2018, to March 31, 2020) and the 18 months that followed (April 1, 2020, to Oct. 1, 2021).

The study found that gains were significant but unevenly spread. Latin/Hispanic actors saw the biggest jump in representation for movies, thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights.” But the percentage of TV series with Latin/Hispanic regulars fell between the periods (to 33 percent from 37.1 percent). Actors of Middle Eastern/North African descent also saw their numbers decline as series regulars (to 8 percent from 9.3 percent), as well as a decline in the overall percentage of roles (1.4 percent vs. 1.6 percent).

The “Entertainment Diversity Progress Report” is part of a larger Variety Business Intelligence initiative to create unbiased databases to better track diversity, equity and inclusion goals. Among other highlights from the study:

During the pandemic period, 70.5 percent of series released had a Black series regular, up notably 65.8 percent pre-pandemic. The number of films released with Black talent also increased (58.7 percent vs. 56.1 percent)

Women made up 42.7 percent of film roles during the pandemic, up from 41.6 percent. Female representation in TV climbed to 46.6 percent of series regular roles, up slightly from 44.5 percent.

Films with LGBTQ actors dropped to 10.7 percent compared to 12.9 percent pre-pandemic. Episodic TV saw the largest gains in representation with 21.8 percent of projects having a queer actor, up from 19.3 percent pre-pandemic.

Asian representation in film nearly doubled across main title roles, representing 32.5 percent of all movies released during the pandemic, up from 28 percent pre-pandemic. In TV, 35.9 percent of seasons released during the pandemic had at least one Asian series regular, up from 33.4 percent.

The number of films released with indigenous main title cast nearly doubled during the pandemic, to 10.3 percent of all movies released during that period. The number of series regulars increased by one role, bringing the total to 1.8 percent of the series regular roles during the pandemic.

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