Acting Jobs Decline for Latinos, Asians

Times Staff Writer

Latinos and Asians found movie and TV roles sparse in 2003, even though actors overall saw a slower drop-off in the number of jobs than in past years, according to a Screen Actors Guild study to be released today.

The study showed that acting jobs for SAG members fell 1.6% in 2003, compared with drops of 6.5% in 2002 and 9.3% in 2001.

The numbers were especially bleak for Latino actors. Roles fell 10.5%, including a 31% drop for male lead roles in prime-time television.

For Asian actors, the number of roles fell 2.1%, and 35% for males in prime-time spots.

The news was bad for women as well as minorities, according to the study. Women were offered only 38% of all roles last year. White performers landed more than 73% of roles.


SAG President Melissa Gilbert cited risk-averse producers and executives who are reluctant to diversify their casts.

“I would be loath to label it as racism as much as I would be willing to label it playing safe,” she said. “The longtime assumption that everybody wants to be blue-eyed, blond-haired and trim still persists.”

Another possible reason, Gilbert said, is the reporting of TV viewership by Nielsen Media Research, which has been criticized for undercounting African Americans and Latinos.

SAG researchers also blame two trends, the proliferation of “reality” shows on TV and runaway film production to cheaper foreign locales, for continuing to hurt actors. But the union did not provide specific numbers.

The study found that, among minorities, African Americans had the largest percentage of roles, landing 15.3% of all hires. That percentage exceeds the U.S. black population, the study said, which the Census Bureau reported at 13%. However, African Americans were cast in 3% fewer roles than last year.

Actors over 40 also found jobs wanting. Only 35% of all roles available were offered to performers over 40, and women that age were less likely to be cast than their male counterparts. Only 27% of all roles for women were offered to females over 40, while men over 40 landed a 39% share of total roles for men.

Only Native Americans saw a gain in the number of roles they landed, the study said. However, Native Americans still account for fewer than 1% of all roles.

The data were compiled by producers as part of a contractual agreement with the union.