Tichina Arnold on race in Hollywood: ‘We need more Black writers in the room’

Survivor’s Remorse Season 2
Photo courtesy of STARZ

Tichina Arnold stars as Cassie Calloway, the outspoken matriarch of the Calloway clan on the hit STARZ series “Survivor’s Remorse.” The actress is obviously experienced in the world of hit sitcoms; she was one of the standouts on FOX’s smash “Martin” in the 1990s and starred for six seasons on “Everybody Hates Chris” in the early 2000s. This year, “Survivor’s Remorse” has been among a crop of new shows debuting on major networks that feature predominantly Black casts; and Arnold is ecstatic about the shift in the television landscape. But she is adamant that more behind-the-scenes change must come for there to be sustained opportunities for black creatives and performers on-screen.

“I think it’s important that we as Black people keep good content,” says Arnold. “We’ve got to stay current and staying current is telling truth and what’s going on. We’re watching reality shows and this is almost a different type of reality that’s [being] told in a different way. I think it’s a great time for Black actors to really be able to stretch. First of all, now there are more roles. For a good five years, every role I went out for was ‘all ethnicity.’ It’s good to give you an opportunity, but there was nothing being written for us. I hadn’t gotten a script in so long that described a character as ‘a black woman.’ There wasn’t anything being written for us or about us. Now there’s a lot more content being written for us.”

Matt Damon came under fire this week after he interrupted film producer Effie Brown to explain “diversity” in Hollywood during a meeting for his HBO reality series “Project: Greenlight.” “When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film not in the casting of the show,” Damon said at the time, which indicated that he thought diverse casting means more than diversity in the production of content. Conversely, Arnold wants to see the writers for Black shows actually match the characters on-screen. She’s even mentioned to Mike O’Malley, creator and one of the executive producers of Survivor’s Remorse, that there should be more Black writers on the show.

“We need to own our content and be a part of the content,” she explains. “Where are the black writers in the room? We need them in the room. I’ve been on all black shows where there isn’t one black writer. That’s where it starts. We need to be in positions of power and in places where we’re part of the creative process. If we’re not in that room, it will be the same thing all over again. That’s why it’s very important to have people like Shonda Rhimes and Ava Duvernay and Ali Leroi — we need to be in positions of power to actively and effectively make changes that we want to see. You’ve got to go do it. It’s not coming to you.”

And she issues a challenge to actors who may feel they’ve been shorted in Hollywood: stop being so angry and take stock of your career and your approach.

“You get a lot of actors who are not working and they become bitter and everything is ‘the industry,'” she says. “But it might be you! You’ve got to put the time in and the work in and get the results. Blame yourself for a change.”

Tune in for “Survivor’s Remorse” on Saturdays at 9:30pm ET/PT on STARZ.

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