Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steele: 'How to Get Away w/ Murder' & 'Black-ish' - the Good & the Bad Steele: 'How to Get Away w/ Murder' & 'Black-ish' - the Good & the Bad "Randy, Red Superfreak and Julia" - 'Scandal' Season 4 Premiere Recap "Randy, Red Superfreak and Julia" - 'Scandal' Season 4 Premiere Recap 'How to Get Away with Murder' Episode 1 Recap + Your Thoughts... 'How to Get Away with Murder' Episode 1 Recap + Your Thoughts... Read What YOU Thought About 'Black-ish' After Last Night's Premiere... Read What YOU Thought About 'Black-ish' After Last Night's Premiere... Storm Would Have to be Recast for Future 'X-Men' Movies. Who Would You Like to See Play Her? Storm Would Have to be Recast for Future 'X-Men' Movies. Who Would You Like to See Play Her? 5 Netflix Streaming Titles You May Not Know Are Available & May Want to Check Out (9/23/14) 5 Netflix Streaming Titles You May Not Know Are Available & May Want to Check Out (9/23/14) Awkward Black Girl's Next Misadventure: Her Own Studio Awkward Black Girl's Next Misadventure: Her Own Studio 101-Year-Old Film Footage Found in Museum's Collection Is Earliest-Known Feature Made w/ Black Actors. First Public Screening in Nov. 101-Year-Old Film Footage Found in Museum's Collection Is Earliest-Known Feature Made w/ Black Actors. First Public Screening in Nov. Once Supporters Now Critical of Actress Daniele Watts, as Civil Rights Activists Call on Actress to Apologize Once Supporters Now Critical of Actress Daniele Watts, as Civil Rights Activists Call on Actress to Apologize Watch First Episode of ABC's New Series 'Black-ish' Now Watch First Episode of ABC's New Series 'Black-ish' Now 'Terror at the Mall,' Documentary on Siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Coming to HBO (Trailer) 'Terror at the Mall,' Documentary on Siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Coming to HBO (Trailer) Thankfully, 'The Equalizer' Gets an "R" Rating From the MPAA (No Surprise Here) Thankfully, 'The Equalizer' Gets an "R" Rating From the MPAA (No Surprise Here) Early Reviews Say 'How To Get Away With Murder' is Very Much in the Style of 'Scandal.' Good Thing or Not? Early Reviews Say 'How To Get Away With Murder' is Very Much in the Style of 'Scandal.' Good Thing or Not? Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) ABC Is Making Changes To The Next-Day Online Availability Of Its Series ABC Is Making Changes To The Next-Day Online Availability Of Its Series Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Denzel Washington Reveals Daughter Is In 'Django Unchained' + Roles He Regrets Rejecting Denzel Washington Reveals Daughter Is In 'Django Unchained' + Roles He Regrets Rejecting Exclusive: Omari Hardwick Raw (Career Evolution, Transition, Testimony Of Faith In Hollywood, 'Kick-Ass 2,' More) Exclusive: Omari Hardwick Raw (Career Evolution, Transition, Testimony Of Faith In Hollywood, 'Kick-Ass 2,' More)

Flashback To When David Milch Didn't Think Black Writers Could Write For Mainstream Audiences

Shadow and Act By Courtney | Shadow and Act November 6, 2012 at 4:13PM

It's a slow news day today, and with good reason - it's Election Day. And I'm manning (or womanning in my case) the site in the meantime, while others handle their civic duties, and other matters. Very loooong lines at polling statings I hear.
7
Eric Deggans

It's a slow news day today, and with good reason - it's Election Day. And I'm manning (or womanning in my case) the site in the meantime, while others handle their civic duties, and other matters. Very loooong lines at polling statings I hear.

Anyway, here's something that I dug up that I thought was worth sharing to get some conversation going.

Some of you will probably remember this story; I actually only heard about it for the first time recently.

At a writer's conference in 1994, David Milch, creator of hit TV shows like NYPD Blue, stated the following:

"In the area of drama, it [is] difficult for black American writers to write successfully for a mass audience."

I was shocked to read that knowing that Milch made those very bold claims in a public space. It seemed like the kind of thing you only hear about happening behind closed doors, but not this time. And, in response to that, the late David Mills (whom many will remember as the Undercover Black Man; his death in 2010 was quite a shock as I recall), who was then a writer for the Washington Post, sent a letter to Milch, challenging his argument.

And in response to Mills' letter, and the conversations that followed, Milch would eventually hire Mills as a writer for NYPD Blue, and reportedly also mentored him along the way.

Mills would go on to bigger and better things, eventually landing his own series, Kingpin, and collaborating with David Simon on more hit shows like The Corner, The Wire and Treme

Milch's 1994 statement goes down in history as one of those myths about black people and media, including: black films don't sell overseas, comedy is the path of least resistance for black content creators wanting to work within the Hollywood studio system, and others.

The question is whether Milch's belief about the capabilities of black writers is one that is still held by white (and maybe even black) producers, studio executives, and showrunners in Hollywood, today, in 2012, or if we've seen any progress. 

One answer from a report by The Root:

But while these writers and others interviewed by The Root have made some gains in the industry, the numbers aren't in their favor. According to a 2011 study commissioned by the Writers Guild of America, the number of minority writers increased slightly from 9 percent in 2007 to 10 percent of all writers, a slight rebound to 2005 levels. Still, this small increase in the number of writers of color isn't reflected in their paychecks; the television earnings gap between minority and white writers has more than doubled since 2007. According to the WGA report, "Minorities have been regularly underrepresented by factors of about 3 to 1 among television writers. As the previous report concluded, it appears that minority writers are at best treading water when it comes to their share of television employment, particularly as the nation itself becomes more diverse."

So while it doesn't directly touch on Milch's statement about black American writers not being able to successfully write for a mass audience, it does tell us that there's obviously still a diversity problem (which we already know well enough), which might suggest that Milch's thinking in 1994 may still be common.

The Root wrote a piece about this a year ago, called The Shonda Rhimes Effect? which you can read HERE.

But I'll let you guys discuss. At the very least, if you weren't aware of the above Milch story, now you know.

This article is related to: Television, TV Features


Shadow & ActNewsletter