CBS reality shows will feature more diverse casts in upcoming seasons.
The network announced it is now making a significant push toward inclusion with its latest initiative, mandating that 50 percent of its reality show casts are represented by Black, Indigenous, or people of color. These changes are expected to roll out in the 2021-22 broadcast season.
"For many Americans, television is the only exposure they have to African Americans, so what they see on TV affects their real-life reaction," said Brice Izyah, the first Black, openly gay contestant on Survivor, connecting it to issues surrounding police brutality. "It is so important not only to get us on the screen but to have correct portrayals of us."
Izyah, who starred on the hit reality show's 28th season in 2014, said being one of the few people of color in the cast was isolating. "My otherness was highlighted, and it made me an instant target. On a tribe of six I was the only non-Caucasian person," he said.
In an effort to call attention to the apparent discrepancy, Izyah formed a petition with an alliance of Black Survivor alums on MoveOn.org that garnered over 8,000 signatures. "We really wanted to get change from Survivor and CBS for the lack of diversity and poor portrayal they've had on people of color." For Izyah, it wasn't necessarily about calling CBS out, it was about calling on them to make a change.
This lack of diversity doesn't just affect the cast, it also extends to the writers room. To address this, CBS is also pledging that 40 percent of its writers will be Black, Indigenous, or people of color, with a goal of upping that number to at least 50 percent in the coming years. "In order to tell our story correctly we need people that look like us to be able to tell our story," said Izyah.
"CBS has gotten the message, and they are definitely changing with the times. And so they choose to be on the right side of history, so I hope that other networks follow suit in CBS' lead."