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SYFY WIRE Riverdale

The Witcher, Legends of Tomorrow execs on striving for diversity in genre TV

By Jacob Oller
Legends of Tomorrow team

As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to garner support around the world in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, the world of genre is responding in kind. While money and awareness have been raised by everyone from LEGO to Star Wars actor John Boyega to Animal Crossing Twitch streamers, those behind fans' favorite genre TV shows are now speaking out about what they can do behind the scenes to make sure that the revolution is televised — or at least that the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror series geeks love will continue to represent the diversity of their fandoms.

The Witcher showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich posted a long thread on Sunday documenting her process for recruiting the writers' room for her coin-tossing, beast-slaying Netflix series starring Henry Cavill:

Hissrich noted that she wanted a wide range of "writing experience" (newbies and veterans alike), "genre experience" (folks outside the swords-n-sorcery bent), and — most importantly for diversity — "life experience." The latter makes "the show richer" because a person of color "has different experiences than a white person; men different than women; straight different than gay. Add in immigrants, adoptees, parents, the list goes on," Hissrich wrote. The showrunner explained that she first reads potential hires without knowing their names, then dug down into what else they brought to the table once their talent was clear.

She also noted that the thread was partially inspired by a similar one written by longtime Arrowverse creative and Legends of Tomorrow executive producer Keto Shimizu, seen below:

"Your show will be just fine if you're the token white person. In fact, it will be better," Shimizu writes as she breaks down how many shows perpetuate a cycle of stark-white hiring practices. But Shimizu's got plenty of actionable steps, namely hiring a non-token amount of non-white writers for fans' favorite shows:

A showrunner recently under fire by his own cast member, Riverdale's Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, also opened up about what he and his writers will be doing behind the scenes to encourage a more diverse show. Aguirre-Sacasa, after facing criticism from actress Vanessa Morgan (who plays Toni Topaz on The CW's Archie Comics show), posted the following statement on Twitter:

"We hear Vanessa. We love Vanessa. She's right. We're sorry and we make the same promise to you that we did to her," the showrunner wrote. "We will do better to honor her and the character she plays. As well as all of our actors and characters of color. CHANGE is happening and will continue to happen. Riverdale will get bigger, not smaller. Riverdale will be part of the movement, not outside it. All of the Riverdale writers made a donation to [Black Lives Matter LA], but we know where the work must happen for us. In the writers' room."

This statement follows Aguirre-Sacasa's previous tweet documenting relevant organizations and his writers' donations:

Others in the genre sphere chiming in include Daredevil's Steven S. DeKnight:

Even those in charge of those ubiquitous straight crime shows have spoken out in solidarity, even as criticism about the effects of police-oriented TV spreads. Those in charge of shows like Law & Order: SVU committed to "holding the writers room accountable, telling stories of racial injustice, police misconduct and bias in the criminal justice system," while others, like Agent Carter's Jose Molina, shared their opinions on how these shows could (and should) change:

As protests continue around the world and industry figures continue to look for ways to adapt and change in more inclusive ways, fans can find many ways to contribute to these efforts here.