Big Brother, Love Island, and Survivor are going to start diversifying its cast more in the future. The casts of the long-running, CBS hit reality shows will now be 50% people of color. Audiences will start seeing more diverse casts from the shows beginning with their next 2021-2022 seasons.
CBS is finally recognizing the lack of representation in reality television, especially on their own network. “The reality TV genre is an area that’s especially underrepresented, and needs to be more inclusive across development, casting, production and all phases of storytelling,” said George Cheeks, who’s the president and chief executive officer for the CBS Entertainment Group. “As we strive to improve all of these creative aspects, the commitments announced today are important first steps in sourcing new voices to create content and further expanding the diversity in our unscripted programming, as well as on our network.”
The decision comes not long after show contestants have spoken out about the severe lack of diversity. For example, former Survivor contestants Sean Rector (season 4) and Jolanda Jones (season 10) recently started a group called The Black Survivor Alliance. The group focuses on “bringing light to our collective experience with implicit bias and racism on and off the show.” Rector and Jones began having meetings with CBS executives. The two also met with the host and executive producer of Survivor, Jeff Probst, about making positive changes to the show. Other former contestants have met with CBS execs about making Survivor more inclusive.
Rector never appeared on the show again after season four. He never even appeared on All-Stars, despite his strong performance on the show. “If you don’t think racism and implicit bias exists, tell me why [Survivor: Marquesas winner Vecepia Robinson] has been completely ignored and has NEVER received an inquiry call or invite to even play in a season with all previous winners?,” Rector wrote to Entertainment Weekly. “(Please miss me with the ‘she was boring or not great TV’ BS).”
Rector and Jones wanted to change the show for good. Based on the news, they’ve paved the way for others to succeed on CBS’ high-profile shows. “My edit, and that of so many other Black people, caused me to organize the BSA and move to end systematic racism on Survivor,” Jones once said. “Of the seasons I watched, the one that makes me the saddest, makes me cry and breaks my heart, is season 14, where there were three Black players, Earl Cole, Cassandra Franklin, and Dreamz Herd, as the finalists. The systematic/systemic racism, implicit bias, and microaggressions shown throughout the editing but especially during the final Tribal were so hard to watch. The thickness of the racism could be cut with a knife … ‘diverse’ does not mean the majority of the cast is white with a mixture of other races.”
Survivor isn’t the only problem show at CBS. Throughout the past, people have taken issue with Big Brother and remarks made by its predominantly white contestants. Now, CBS still has a way to go on their narrative shows as well, according to critics and statistics. The network is now making changes. For example, 25% of projects of CBS projects must be created or co-created by people of color in the future. Writers’ rooms, too, should be 40% of people of color. Changes made by CBS has already brought positive changes to some of their biggest hit titles, which are now more diverse in front of and behind the camera.
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