New Study Reveals Dramatic Increase in Roles for Black and Nonbinary Actors Since Start of COVID-19 Pandemic

While the last two years have been incredibly tough for almost everyone, a few beneficial changes have arisen during that period. Among the gains made, there’s been a dramatic increase in TV and movie roles for Black and nonbinary actors.

William Earl of Variety reported that “representation for Black and nonbinary actors has increased significantly in TV and film since the start of the pandemic.”

According to Earl, “the research was conducted by Variety Business Intelligence, a part of P-MRC Data, a joint venture between Penske Media Corp. and MRC. It found that Black talent logged the highest rate of representation gains in episodic TV and film across racial and ethnic lines. Among the gender and LGBTQ breakdowns examined, nonbinary talent logged the biggest overall gains.”

The Variety study looked at two very different and distinct periods: the 18 months preceding the pandemic (Oct. 1, 2018, to March 31, 2020) and the 18 months that followed (April 1, 2020, to Oct. 1, 2021). The analysis then broke down statistics of casting for both series regulars in episodic TV series and main-title cast members for movies produced during those periods.

Among the findings the survey revealed:

  • A significant jump in representation for Black characters, with 65.8% of series TV featuring a Black actor pre-pandemic and 70.5% featuring one post-pandemic. Roles for Black actors in films also increased from 56.1% to 58.7%.
  • Small but significant gains in representation for women, comprising 42.7% of film roles post-pandemic compared to 41.6% pre-pandemic.
  • A dramatic increase in movie roles for Latin and Hispanic movie actors, especially because of films like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights.
  • Declining representation on TV for Latin and Hispanic actors, with roles falling from 37.1% to 33%.
  • A decline in roles for actors of Middle Eastern/North African descent with numbers falling from 9.3% pre-pandemic to 8% post-pandemic.
  • Increasing representation for LGBTQ actors on TV from 19.3% to 21.8%. However, LGBTQ roles for queer actors in movies fell from 12.9% pre-pandemic to 10.7% post-post-pandemic.

“Asian representation in film nearly doubled across main-title roles, representing 32.5% of all movies released during the pandemic, up from 28% pre-pandemic,” Earl said. “In TV, 35.9% of seasons released during the pandemic had at least one Asian series regular, up from 33.4%.”

Earl also noted that “the number of films released with Indigenous main-title cast nearly doubled during the pandemic, to 10.3% of all movies released during that period. The number of series regulars increased by one role, bringing the total to 1.8% of the series regular roles during the pandemic.”


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