Young Hol­ly­wood Im­pact Re­port

Variety - - Young Hollywood -

The talent — aged 25 and un­der — on Va­ri­ety’s an­nual list are plat­form ag­nos­tic (and so are the adult reps on the list who’ve im­pacted the ca­reers of young per­form­ers). Show­biz finds stars al­most anywhere — and it’s an ex­cit­ing time when Youtu­bers move into tra­di­tional, while the mu­sic biz can mine var­i­ous plat­forms for ex­cit­ing new talent. On our Up Next re­port, we fo­cus on talent poised for a break­through.

But, she notes, “More and more cre­ators have be­come savvy to the fact that au­di­ences want char­ac­ters that re­flect them­selves, and our net­work wants to re­flect our au­di­ence in our char­ac­ters. So cre­ators are com­ing in with char­ac­ters who come from dif­fer­ent eth­nic back­grounds or ex­pe­ri­ences.”

One such cre­ator is Roberto Aguirre-sacasa, showrun­ner for “Riverdale” and the up­com­ing Net­flix se­ries “Chilling Ad­ven­tures of Sab­rina.” “I’m Lat­inx,” he says. “So def­i­nitely we talked about di­ver­sity when we pitched the show, in ev­ery room we pitched it, too. If we had tried to do an all- Cau­casian cast on ‘Riverdale’ … we wouldn’t have been al­lowed to get it made. That’s not how tele­vi­sion works any­more.”

This em­brace of di­ver­sity is the re­sult of years of slow tec­tonic shifts.

“Tech­nol­ogy is open­ing things up in a dif­fer­ent way,” says Li Lai, founder of di­ver­sity-fo­cused re­views web­site Me­di­aver­sity. “Twenty years ago, you had to cre­ate me­dia that at­tracted a big, main­stream au­di­ence. But streaming has made ev­ery­thing a lit­tle more a la carte, and you can make money by be­ing more niche.”

An­other con­tribut­ing fac­tor is that mil­len­nial and post-mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tions are far more di­verse than their par­ents or grand­par­ents.

“Older gen­er­a­tions de­manded tol­er­ance; this gen­er­a­tion wants ac­cep­tance,” says Shelly Sumpter Gill­yard, ex­ec­u­tive VP for Nick­elodeon talent, mu­sic and events. “Shows have to re­flect what’s hap­pen­ing in so­ci­ety — and young au­di­ences are de­mand­ing it.”

Cre­ators say it no longer makes any sense to pur­sue a non- di­verse show, in more ways than one.

“We have an ex­tra re­spon­si­bil­ity with the younger gen­er­a­tion to show what the world looks like to them,” says Sean Cun­ning­ham, co- cre­ator (with Mark Dworkin) of Nick’s “Knight Squad.” “We don’t think of it as a ‘sell­ing point’ when we’re pitch­ing a show. It’s way more im­por­tant than be­ing a ‘sell­ing point.’”

But to Lau­ren Iun­gerich, co- cre­ator (with Ed­die Gon­za­lez and Jeremy Haft) and showrun­ner of Net­flix’s “On My Block,” di­ver­sity is just one el­e­ment of a suc­cess­ful show. “I don’t see it as be­ing pro or con,” she says. “Peo­ple are look­ing for great sto­ries. Of course peo­ple would like to show more rep­re­sen­ta­tion across the board, but I think it al­ways comes down to the show, and the sto­ries.”

That philosophy makes busi­ness sense, too. “If you look at con­tent as a pie, all of the slices you want to put to­gether in­clude be­ing a strong rat­ings driver, a big au­di­ence hit,” says Nina Hahn, Nick­elodeon se­nior VP, in­ter­na­tional devel­op­ment. “One of those slices is di­ver­sity. The magic of all that is when those slices come to­gether.”

But, says Joanna John­son, showrun­ner of Freeform’s “Good Trou­ble,” “it’s a slow process. There’s still a lot of to­kenism in tele­vi­sion — there’s still a ret­i­cence to put darker-skinned peo­ple on tele­vi­sion. We’re not there at all. But what’s changed is this push­ing for di­ver­sity.”

Still, for Me­di­aver­sity’s Lai, it’s about the big­ger pic­ture. “I’m glad that di­ver­sity makes money,” she says. “It’s more in­ter­est­ing and it bet­ter tar­gets who’s watch­ing TV right now. But it’s wider than ‘does di­ver­sity sell?’ This is the world, and if you want to be a good artist and cre­ative sto­ry­teller, you find your au­di­ence — and you talk to them.”

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