Winter TCA: NBC’s “Deception” sidesteps touchy subject of race

Actors Meagan Good (L) and Victor Garber speak onstage at the "Deception" panel session.
(Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

The cast of NBC’s “Deception” has put the drama in the spotlight.

The drama is one of only two network dramas that features an African American female in a lead role. But rather than embrace the groundbreaking emphasis, the producers appear to be more than a little uncomfortable with discussing the subject of race as it relates to the series.


“Deception” stars Meagan Good as Joanna Locasto, a San Francisco narcotics detective who investigates a murder than has been linked to the Bowers, a powerful and wealthy family that once employed Joanna’s mother as a maid.

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Recruited by FBI agent and former lover Will Moreno (Laz Alonso), Joanna goes undercover and reconnects with the family in order to find the suspected killer of Vivian Bowers, who grew up with Joanna and was her best friend.

When questioned about the racial aspects of the series during a session at the winter Television Critics Assn. tour, producers were more than a little uneasy. Inquiries were followed by several seconds of silence.


Executive producer Gail Berman called Joanna’s mother “the head of the household,” noting that the show never specifies her as being a maid. “Head of the household” seemed to some reporters in the room as an odd term to refer to a black woman who performed household duties for a white family.

How Joanna feels about how the family treated her mother, and exploring the current attitudes about domestic workers is never explored.


The show’s creator, Liz Heldens, said with the makeup of the cast, “it is sort of a way to sort of deal with race without actually having to talk about it. But it’s not really something we talk about too much in the writer’s room.”

What was more important, Heldens said, was how Joanna was “completely accepted” within the family, and the strong friendship between Joanna and Vivian that eventually dissolved: “The show is about so many things, and it’s so rich.”



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