Actor Firass Dirani (Underbelly, The Straits) has impressed upon the need for television networks to cast more actors from multicultural backgrounds.
“Those people on Winners & Losers in their floral colours and their pastels … I don’t even know people like this,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“We need to watch ourselves, warts and all; flaws and all.
“Hopefully the networks start writing shows that cater for different actors and different cultural backgrounds.”
It’s fair to argue that dramas such as Packed to the Rafters sit at one end of the spectrum while others such as The Slap and (the now defunct) East West 101 represent another view of Australia.
To be fair, Rafters has drawn upon Greek characters and Winners and Losers has cast Asian actors as the parents of Melanie Vallejo (ironically, Dirani and Vallejo became romantically involved when working on Power Rangers). But Dirani’s point is about the broader tone of the shows.
Neighbours has long been the target of similar arguments, but recently employed Indian /Sir Lankan actors. Even Pay TV’s Tangle is very white-bread.
What can we expect from Tricky Business on Nine? Those promos look very safe.
Drama still trails Reality TV in terms of ethnic diversity and has done for years. Even Young Talent Time is a great snapshot of the make-up of Australian families.
But one of the ways forward is not just to write multicultural characters, but to “cast blind.” This is a policy that has served shows like Grey’s Anatomy very well, where roles such as those played by Sandra Oh, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens Jr. were never conceived as Asian-American or African-American roles, but cast with the best actors for the job.
Come to think of it, if it’s ok to screen Grey’s Anatomy in primetime on a commercial network with all its diverse actors, why is it less ok to do the same in an Australian show?