NBC touts increased diversity in casts of new shows during upfronts

Philip Winchester, left, and Wesley Snipes in "The Player."

Philip Winchester, left, and Wesley Snipes in “The Player.”

(Gregory Peters/NBC)

NBC Entertainment President Bob Greenblatt made a special note of mentioning the “diversity” of the network’s upcoming lineup during its upfront presentation in New York on Monday.

Evidence of several clips from new shows indicates that after several years of struggling with increasing diversity and casting minorities in leading or principal roles, NBC is making a concerted effort this season to boost people of color in comedies and dramas.

INTERACTIVE: The TV addict’s guide to what’s new (and what’s gone) for the fall season

Featured in that effort are several prominent celebrities, including Jennifer Lopez, Wesley Snipes and Eva Longoria.


Greenblatt also gave a shout-out to the network’s upcoming live presentation of “The Wiz,” the acclaimed stage musical that puts an African American spin on “The Wizard of Oz.” The production, which will air in late fall, has cast Stephanie Mills, the Dorothy from the original Broadway production, as Auntie Em, and Greenblatt said a search is underway for a fresh new talent to play the new Dorothy.

The new series featuring minorities in leading roles include:

--"The Player,” starring Wesley Snipes and Phillip Westchester as a former military operative turned security agent drawn into a high-stakes game in a Las Vegas-set thriller. The drama marks the first regular series role for Snipes, who is revitalizing his once-red hot Hollywood career after serving a three-year prison sentence for failure to pay taxes.

--"Hot and Bothered,” starring Eva Longoria (“Desperate Housewives”) as the lead in a telenovela in which she plays a woman grappling with life and romance. The series marks a return to NBC for Longoria, who was the executive producer of a short-lived dating reality show, “Ready for Love” in 2013. The project proved to be a bit of an embarrassment for the twice-divorced actress when she began dating one of the contestants.

--"Superstore,” starring America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty”) as the supervisor in a big-box megastore with a wacky crew.

--"Shades of Blue,” starring Jennifer Lopez as a single mother and New York cop who is forced to work with the FBI and must betray her own on-the-job brothers.

--"People Are Talking,” starring Tone Bell and Mark-Paul Gosselaar in a comedy about two diverse couples.