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Asian and Black representation grew in film and television, study finds

Less than 2% of all movies released last year centered on Asian stories, and TV series with at least one Asian series regular increased by 2%, according to the report.
Image: Everything Everywhere All At Once
Stephanie Hsu, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in "Everything Everywhere All At Once."A24
/ Source: Variety

Representation for Asian actors increased in TV and film between 2021 and 2022, according to a study of how casting and crew for scripted live-action content has changed over the past two years.

The Entertainment Diversity Progress Report was conducted by Luminate, a subsidiary of PME TopCo., a joint venture between Penske Media Corporation and Eldridge. Following the 2021 study, the 2022 report found intersectionality has increased on screen, with Hollywood making strides toward depicting people with multiple identities across race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and ability. Additionally, the study discovered a rapid increase in non-English language content available in the U.S., fueled by streaming platforms. “Netflix is having an outsized impact on this representation,” the study concluded, “However, this doesn’t fix the problem of lack of diverse domestic casting.”

The report is part of a larger Luminate initiative to create unbiased databases to better track diversity, equity and inclusion goals.

The study compared the breakdowns of series regulars in episodic TV series and main-title cast members for movies released throughout both the 2021 and 2022 calendar years, as well as for directors. The research discovered that there were no large improvements, with uneven representation among different communities and mediums. Representation in both the Asian and Black communities was responsible for the largest increase and remains on the rise.

“When looking at the data in this most recent report, we encourage all of our partners in Hollywood to celebrate the gains that have been made, like growth in female director roles and female series creators, while also urging them to take a look at places where growth was not seen, like films and series with Black and Latin/Hispanic stories at the forefront,” said Mark Hoebich, EVP, Head of Luminate Film & TV.

TV series with at least one Asian series regular increased 2%, from 2021’s 36.5% to 2022’s 38.4%. Asian main title cast and directors in film increased by 7.7% and 5.9% respectively. While the success of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” provided large strides for the Asian community, only 1.8% of all movies released in 2022 centered on Asian stories.

In 2022, Black actors’ presence in main title film roles increased by over 20%, reflecting the studios’ commitments to fund more projects with Black talent, according to the study. The number of films released with at least one main Black title actor also increased by 30.1%. Yet the number of films with Black stories at the forefront decreased by 16.7%, with only 35 films total.

Among other highlights from the study:

  • Main title film roles played by women increased very slightly from 41% to 42.7%, while series roles decreased from 46.3% to 45.7%, during 2022 and 2021 respectively.
  • Films with main title LGBTQ+ actors decreased to 17% of films tracked, versus 18.3% in 2021. Television also saw a decrease, with LGBTQ+ talent at 26.7%, versus 31.1% in 2021.
  • Latin/Hispanic actors saw a slight decrease, with main title roles dropping from 8.7% to 7.7%, and director roles decreasing from 6.8% to 4.6%. As for Hispanic series regulars, Hispanic actors hold over 31.6% but those series were exclusively Spanish language content. Only .9% of all films released centered Latino narratives.
  • Indigenous representation remains minimal, with the main title film casts identifying as Indigenous increasing only by 0.2% from 2021 to 2022, at a total of 1.7%. Those behind the camera also had a very minimal increase, with the addition of one more Indigenous film director in 2022, with four total. Only 2.3% of TV series regulars in 2022 identified as Indigenous, versus 2021’s 2%. There were a total of 58 series featuring one Indigenous series regular, but only three of those series centered on Indigenous narratives.
  • Middle Eastern and North African talent representation also remained minimal, with only 1.8% of all main title cast roles held by Middle Eastern or North African actors, versus 2021’s 1.6%. Only one film in both 2021 and 2022 centered around Middle Eastern and North African narratives, and only 1.7% of film directors in the study were of Middle Eastern and North African descent. 
  • The disabled community saw the least amount of visibility in 2022. Only eight main title film cast roles were held by performers who identify as having a disability. This number decreased from five roles in 2021 to three in 2022, making up only 0.5% of films. This data is based on performers who publicly identify as part of the disabled community.