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America Ferrera Breaks Down The Difference Between Tokenism And 'True Diversity'

"The tricky thing with casting diversely is avoiding the kind of tokenism that only pays lip service to the issue."
Colton Dunn and America Ferrera star in "Superstore." 
Colton Dunn and America Ferrera star in "Superstore." 

America Ferrera wants to remind Hollywood that tokenism is not "true diversity."

The "Superstore" producer/actress delved deep into the state of diversity in television and film in a guest blog published Wednesday on Deadline.com. Ferrera wrote about her personal experiences in the industry, and warned that "the tricky thing with casting diversely is avoiding the kind of tokenism that only pays lip service to the issue." 

Ferrera breaks down the issue further by explaining how tokenism greatly differs from truly diverse casting. This distinction, she writes, is particularly important as the industry looks to embrace diversity. 

Tokenism is about inserting diverse characters because you feel you have to; true diversity means writing characters that aren’t just defined by the color of their skin, and casting the right actor for the role.

During a conversation with NPR in January, Ferrera revealed that the role of Amy on NBC's "Superstore" was the first time in her career she was offered a character that wasn't written for a Latina. And she wasn't alone, in her guest blog for Deadline she once again stressed that "Superstore" stars Colton Dunn and Nico Santos were also cast in roles not specifically written as Black or Asian characters. 

"Of course, when I stepped into the role of Amy, she became Latina because I’m Latina… It just wasn’t her only point of definition," she wrote in her blog for Deadline. "We’re all the sum of our experiences. I don’t know any people of color who go around thinking, 'I’m going grocery shopping as a Latina,' or, 'I’m going to read this book as an Asian person.'"

And "Superstore" has found success with its diverse cast, it became NBC’s highest rated first-year comedy in two years and was renewed for a second season in February. But Ferrera knows there is still plenty of work to be done in the industry when it comes to diversity. 

"Diversity is on everyone’s agenda today, but it’s something I’ve had to think about my entire career, because, in a way, it’s like the tax you pay for being a person of color in this industry," she wrote in her blog. "You don’t get to avoid these questions. It’d be great to go and audition for roles that don’t have to be representative of every Latino person on the planet, but we aren’t always given that freedom. I can’t just play a housekeeper or a drug dealer, no matter how interesting the character might be, because I always have to think about whether I want to play a role that’s perpetuating the same old stereotypes."

Read the "Superstore" actress' full must-read guest column on Deadline.com. 

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