Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Enter The New Normal Writing Contest From Issa Rae's ColorCreative & Project Greenlight Digital Studios Enter The New Normal Writing Contest From Issa Rae's ColorCreative & Project Greenlight Digital Studios Missed It Last Night? Watch 'A Ballerina’s Tale' in Full Now Missed It Last Night? Watch 'A Ballerina’s Tale' in Full Now Ava DuVernay Wanted for Two (2!) Major Sci-Fi/Fantasy Studio Projects (UPDATE: Lupita Nyong'o May Star in One of Them) Ava DuVernay Wanted for Two (2!) Major Sci-Fi/Fantasy Studio Projects (UPDATE: Lupita Nyong'o May Star in One of Them) Tonight: Nelson George's Misty Copeland Doc - 'A Ballerina’s Tale' - Premieres on INDEPENDENT LENS Tonight: Nelson George's Misty Copeland Doc - 'A Ballerina’s Tale' - Premieres on INDEPENDENT LENS Jamie Foxx Will Play Little John to Taron Egerton's Robin Hood in "Progressive" Take on the Legend Jamie Foxx Will Play Little John to Taron Egerton's Robin Hood in "Progressive" Take on the Legend James Franco Will Direct Film Based on Aziah "Zola" Wells' 148-Tweet Narrative That Went Viral James Franco Will Direct Film Based on Aziah "Zola" Wells' 148-Tweet Narrative That Went Viral Is Idris Elba a Hollywood Leading Man Yet? Is Idris Elba a Hollywood Leading Man Yet? Regarding 'Song of the South' – The Film That Disney Doesn’t Want You to See Regarding 'Song of the South' – The Film That Disney Doesn’t Want You to See Watch Mekhi Phifer in Trailer for "First-Person Shooter" Zombie Thriller, 'Pandemic' Watch Mekhi Phifer in Trailer for "First-Person Shooter" Zombie Thriller, 'Pandemic' HBO Sets April Premiere Date for 'Confirmation' HBO Sets April Premiere Date for 'Confirmation' Watch the Electrifying First Trailer for Don Cheadle's 'Miles Ahead' Watch the Electrifying First Trailer for Don Cheadle's 'Miles Ahead' Watch Episode 1 of PBS' New Civil War-Set Drama Series 'Mercy Street' + On-Set Visit Watch Episode 1 of PBS' New Civil War-Set Drama Series 'Mercy Street' + On-Set Visit Watch: OWN Previews New Primetime Series 'It's Not You, It's Men' (Tyrese Gibson & Rev Run Host) Watch: OWN Previews New Primetime Series 'It's Not You, It's Men' (Tyrese Gibson & Rev Run Host) LeToya Luckett, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Andra Fuller Star in New TV One Comedy Series 'Here We Go Again' LeToya Luckett, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Andra Fuller Star in New TV One Comedy Series 'Here We Go Again' TV One Aims to Change the Reality Genre with New Series, 'The Next 15' TV One Aims to Change the Reality Genre with New Series, 'The Next 15' Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton Is Heading to TV Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton Is Heading to TV Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' 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...

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