Study Finds Continued Underrepresent-ation of Asian-Americans on TV

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Reprinted from The Hollywood Reporter by  on September 12, 2017.

When Master Of None and Fresh Off The Boat premiered, it seemed as though there was a renaissance when it came to the representation of Asian American and Pacific Islanders on television. And even though Ken Jeong’s multi-cam ABC comedy Dr. Ken was canceled after two seasons, it was also a landmark for the AAPI community in entertainment. Although these projects were a win when it comes to what seems to be a never-ending campaign for diversity and inclusion in Hollywood, it took more than 20 years for the industry to get there. Before the three shows, there hadn’t been an Asian American-led series since Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl in 1994. So while there may be progress, according to a new study titled “Tokens on the Small Screen,” proper representation of the AAPI community in Hollywood is moving at a glacial pace.

The multi-university study, a 10-year follow-up to a 2005 and 2006 study of AAPIs in primetime television, examined 242 TV shows and 2,052 series regulars from broadcast, cable, and streaming television scripted shows airing between September 1, 2015-August 31, 2016. In the end, they concluded that although there are more opportunities for AAPI actors, their characters remain marginalized and tokenized on screen. …

The study’s results showed that white actors dominated the TV landscape in all aspects. Nearly 70% of TV series regulars are white, and at least 96% of TV shows have at least one white series regular. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering UCLA and USC have done studies with similar outcomes. As mentioned, the new study found that 69.5% of TV series regulars are white while 14% are black and 5.9% are Latino. Mono-racial AAPI (a person of single or multiple Asian or Pacific Islander heritage) make up 4.3%, while Multiracial AAPI (person of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage and non-Asian heritage) account for 2.6%. When all is said and done, 155 out of the 242 shows studied do not have AAPI series regulars. In the 2006 study, 2.6% of the primetime programs evaluated had AAPI series regulars. The new study shows a significant increase, but barely moves the needle. …

Deadline Hollywood 9/12

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Jeff Burman represents assistant editors on the Guild’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at

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