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Leslie Moonves on Diversity: Judge Track Record by ‘Totality’ of CBS Corp.

Variety logo Variety 5/17/2017 Cynthia Littleton
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As CBS unveils its new fall lineup, the Eye is facing renewed scrutiny of its track record on diversity in front of and behind the camera. CBS Corp. chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves told reporters Wednesday morning that CBS’ track record should be judged by the “totality” of programming delivered by the broader corporation, including Showtime, the CW and the CBS All Access streaming service.

Of the CBS network’s six new fall series, one features a person of color in the lead, African-American actor Shemar Moore in the police drama “SWAT.” Compared to last year, when CBS had no actors of color in lead roles among freshman shows in its fall lineup, the Eye has also added the comedy “Superior Donuts,” starring African-American comedian Jermaine Fowler.

Moonves was pressed by a reporter Wednesday during a Q&A session about the lack of female leads in new fall shows. Moonves pointed to current CBS series “Madam Secretary” and “Mom” which feature predominantly female casts. He cited the acclaimed CBS All Access drama “The Good Fight,” toplined by Christine Baranski, which has been picked up for a second season. All Access is also launching a new iteration of “Star Trek” this fall, “Star Trek: Discovery,” which is led by African-American actress Sonequa Martin-Green.

Martin-Green and Fowler will be prominently featured as part of the presentation CBS will deliver to advertisers this afternoon at Carnegie Hall.

Moonves emphasized that programming decisions come down to the quality of the pilots produced this year. “We do a number of pilots. A lot of them have women in starring roles,” he said. “The best pilots win at the end of the day. We think our track record is OK.”

Last year, CBS executives vowed to improve efforts to bring more diverse voices to the network after a drubbing from critics who pointed to the disconnect between an all-white fall slate and the increasingly multicultural nature of the U.S. population. CBS has reigned for most of the past 15 years as America’s most-watched network. Moonves noted that more women in total watch CBS than any other network.

Moonves also pointed to programming activity beyond primetime, such as news, daytime and sports, as well as Showtime and the CW. “Look a the totality of what we do,” he said. “We’re fine in terms of the amount of women in front of the camera, behind the camera. I don’t think we’re looking in the wrong direction.”

Among its off-camera employment, CBS’ new fall comedy “9JKL” is co-created and exec produced by a woman, Dana Klein. CBS’ new drama “Seal Team” and returning series “Madam Secretary,” “Mom,” “Criminal Minds,” “Elementary,” “The Amazing Race” and newsmagazine “48 Hours” have female creators or exec producers in leading roles.

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