Historically underrepresented performers will have increased opportunities on television, beginning in the 2022-2023 broadcast season, thanks to the “CBS Performers with Disabilities Talent Initiative,” announced today.
The CBS Network aims to create what it terms “meaningful representation and inclusion for all underrepresented groups, including performers with disabilities.” The opportunities are envisioned in series regular, guest star or costarring roles in current series and pilots, playing characters specifically written with a disability, as well as roles that do not specify one.
“By focusing on professional growth and supporting these performers, this initiative helps to provide opportunities and much-needed exposure in the industry,” said Claudia Lyon, executive vice president of talent and casting at CBS Entertainment. “There are so many talented performers available who are often overlooked and are not being considered for roles, so our goal with this initiative is to help bridge that gap.”
She cited support from Eric Goldberg, director of talent and casting, and Rosalie Joseph, Marva Smalls, EVP, global head of inclusion at Paramount and EVP of public affairs, kids and family entertainment brands at Paramount, and Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i, executive vice president of entertainment diversity and inclusion at Paramount.
In 2019, CBS was the first network to sign the Ruderman Family Foundation’s pledge to increase the audition opportunities for performers with disabilities. The pledge also sought to improve the portrayal of disabilities in television by increasing the number of roles that cast actors with disabilities.
As part of the new initiative, CBS created an expanded database of performers with disabilities in consultation with advocacy groups, outreach, independent research and open calls. CBS applied these new resources in the 2022-2023 broadcast and pilot season and is actively rolling them out across Paramount Global brands.
The CBS Performers with Disabilities Talent Initiative will also afford select performers the opportunity to participate in a series of customized career advancement programs over the course of the broadcast season. They include:
- CASTING 101: An informational panel in the fall of 2022 about the entertainment industry, offering career guidance on what casting directors are looking for during auditions, how to obtain representation, advice regarding headshots/resumes/demo reels, how casting directors discover and track talent, and a Q&A session with CBS executives.
- ACTING WORKSHOPS: Three acting workshops meant to give feedback and acting tips to be held over the year with one in-person event in both Los Angeles and New York and one national event via Zoom.
- OPEN CALL: A yearly open call in advance of each pilot season to consider new and up-and-coming performers with disabilities.
In October, the Paramount Office of Global Inclusion will present a Performers with Disabilities Summit in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Additional details about this event will be announced shortly.
This new initiative joins the Network’s previously announced commitments to improve inclusion and representation for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in writer rooms, casting, and new series creation and development.
It is also another example of Paramount’s global, companywide, cross-brand initiative, Content for Change, in partnership with The Office of Global Inclusion, that seeks to use the power of the company’s content creation ecosystem to break down the narratives that enable intolerance, hurtful stereotypes and systemic racism to exist and grow.
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