New CBS entertainment chief vows more prime-time diversity

Glen Geller

Glen Geller

PASADENA, Calif. — CBS is committed to increasing the diversity of its prime-time series, the network’s new programming chief said, offering himself as evidence.

“I’m just a gay guy from Indiana who doesn’t play basketball, but now I’m the entertainment president of CBS,” said Glenn Geller, who was promoted to the job last fall.

He contended that CBS offers diversity in front of and behind the camera and in its corporate offices.

“And can we do better? I think we are,” he told a TV critics’ meeting Tuesday. “We’re not casting color blind, we’re casting color conscious.”

Two upcoming CBS series will offer “greatly diverse casts,” he said of “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders,” starting March 16, and “Rush Hour,” debuting March 31.

The newcomer to the “Criminal Minds” franchise, about FBI agents who aid Americans in trouble abroad, includes African-American actor Tyler James Williams and Daniel Henney, who is of Korean ancestry. Its top-listed stars are Gary Sinise and Alana De La Garza.

The cast of “Rush Hour,” based on the Jackie Chan-Chris Tucker movie franchise, includes Justin Hires and Page Kennedy, who are black, and Jon Foo and Aimee Garcia.

Geller inherited a schedule that had lost ground in depicting ethnic diversity. The nation’s most popular network, which 15 years ago had the most diversity, has the least among the major broadcast networks, according to an Associated Press analysis of the fall 2014 schedule.

Black representation had slipped to just under 7 percent, less than half what it was in 1999, according to the AP’s tally from the network’s own cast lists. African-Americans make up more than 13 percent of the U.S. population.

Geller’s longtime predecessor, Nina Tassler, had consistently asserted the network was working to offer a fuller depiction of American diversity but that its success created less opportunity for series turnover and cast changes.

Geller, who has been with CBS in other posts for 14 years and was named entertainment president last September, made a point of introducing himself as a gay man.

“I’m diverse,” he told reporters. “I mentioned my husband earlier and I talk about him publicly because i want to normalize my diversity. CBS will always look like what America looks like, and it’s always evolving and changing.”

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