Diversity on Australian television is an interesting topic.
I believe a lot of us coloured people would love to be considered for the screen, but not just for the sake of tokenism and satisfying casting quotas.
We don’t want to be cast in roles dictated by cultural stereotypes, nor do audiences want to watch Indians only playing taxi drivers, or Chinese people just portraying doctors.
So if we want to cast ethnic screen personalities like we do Caucasians, based on their talent and not simply skin colour, some would argue that it’s counter-productive to single out and make such a big deal of a situation where a coloured person is actually cast in a prime-time production.
But in reality, our industry is still behind the US and UK in terms of racial diversification of voices. Therefore I believe that when an Indigenous Australian man is a cast in a leading role on a Channel Ten romantic drama opposite a Logie award-winning actress, it’s a reason to deliberately draw attention to and celebrate the progress being made.
Rob Collins plays charismatic chef Jack Winters in highly-anticipated new program, ‘The Wrong Girl’, which also stars Jessica Marais of Packed To The Rafters fame.
As viewers will see when the show hits screens next week, Rob’s character becomes an object of affection for Jessica’s character Lily Woodward, a successful, career-driven, blonde breakfast television producer.
This personally makes me do a secret happy dance. Someone whose skin colour I can identify with (I’m Indian so you could say I’m a pleasant shade of milk chocolate), is being given some considerable air time while being portrayed as an incredibly intelligent, successful and handsome personality. And that too, on what has been tipped to be the next big thing on Channel Ten since ‘Offspring’.
Speaking of ‘Offspring’, the drama famously starring Asher Keddie has also excelled in terms of diverse casting, with Deborah Mailman and Lawrence Leung being part of the regular cast.
And Channel Ten of course also prides itself on Gold Logie winner and ‘The Project’ host Waleed Aly, who spoke about cultural diversity on television better than anyone else when he accepted his coveted award earlier this year.
‘Do not adjust your sets, there is nothing wrong with the picture. If you’re in the room I’m sure there is an Instagram filter you can use to return things to normal it’ll be fine. This is happening…’ the 38-year-old began his speech.
Last month Screen Australia released a report titled ‘Seeing Ourself: Reflections On Diversity In Australian TV Drama’.
According to its findings, ‘the cultural diversity of the Australian population is not currently reflected in the main characters in TV dramas. People of non-Anglo-Celtic background were represented in drama programs at just over half the rate that they are present in the population’.
So when ‘The Wrong Girl’, supported by Screen Australia, has an Indigenous Australian joining a star-studded cast in a major role, I say don’t ignore the progress.
It’s time to celebrate things getting one stop closer to a more multicultural outcome in the next diversity research report.