Nina Tassler Admits To Lack of Diversity on CBS

“The reality is we have to look at making the best choices, hiring the best actors. And if we don’t get the level of diversity we’re happy with going into the fall, we look for every opportunity through the course of the entire year to add it.”  Nina Tassler, CBS Ent. President

At-the-TCAAs small screen juggernaut, CBS Corporation, made its presence known at this Summer’s meeting of the Television Critics Association (TCA), new programming was introduced on all three of its venues—CBS Entertainment, The CW and cable outlet, Showtime. For Latino viewers hoping to see their faces more often this season, there was mediocre news from CBS, really good news from CW and no news from Showtime.

Nina Tassler.490
Nina Tassler

When Nina Tassler, Chairman, CBS Entertainment—the highest profile Latina in network television—addressed the members of TCA, she confirmed that none of the Eye Network’s new fall shows would feature a Latino as a series regular, stating, “The reality is we have to look at making the best choices, hiring the best actors. And if we don’t get the level of diversity we’re happy with going into the fall, we look for every opportunity through the course of the entire year to add it.”

Tassler, who is of Jewish and Puerto Rican heritage, projected to 2015, which will see the premiere of Dovekeepers, an ensemble mini series, featuring Cote de Pablo. Tassler continued, “So that was an opportunity for us to say, look, we didn’t get the level of diversity in some of the fall shows, but let’s make a big statement and cast Cote in
our event series.”

Cote de Pablo, whose departure from CBS’s NCIS was not popular with series’ fans, has signed on to star in the four-hour miniseries, based on Alice Hoffman’s historical novel set in ancient Israel, focusing on the intersecting lives of four women at the time of the Roman siege of Masada. The project is exec produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. Dovekeepers air date is to be announced. It’s obvious Chilean-born de Pablo will not be returning to NCIS.

Jane.KeyArt.Latino action certainly perked up during The CW’s segment of TCA. The debut sitcom series, Jane the Virgin—loosely adapted from the Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen, created by Perla Farías—has a plethora of Latino series regulars, including Gina Rodriguez (Jane), Andrea Navedo, Yael Grobglss, Ivonne Cole and Jaime Camil.

Set in Miami, the series focuses on the comical tribulations of Jane Villanueva, a religious young Latina whose plan to keep her virginity intact until marriage gets sidestepped when she is accidentally artificially inseminated during a checkup. For Rodriguez, who was also offered a series regular slot on ABC’s Devious Maids, the choice to star in The CW’s new series was compelling, not so with Devious Maids.

Rodriguez recalled, “I didn’t find the story possibilities on Maids as rewarding. I have many family members that have fed many of their families on doing that job, but there are other stories that need to be told. And I think that the media is a venue and an avenue to educate and teach our next generation. And, sadly, right now the perception they have of Latinos in America are very specific to maid, landscape, pregnant teen, even though I am playing pregnant teen, but not in the usual way.”

Raised in Chicago, of Puerto Rican heritage, Rodriguez has two older sisters, one of whom is an investment banker, the other is an actor. Rodriguez affirmed, “Growing up, I never saw us portrayed on television. I would look at the screen and think, well, there’s no way I can do it, because I’m not there. Well, now I am there and I can do it.”

Jane the Virgin premieres Monday Oct. 13 (9pm). It is exec produced by Jennie Snyder Urman, Ben Silverman, Gary Pearl, Jorge Granier and Brad Silberling.

Carlos Valdes

The CW’s other Latino friendly series is The Flash, developed by writer/producers Greg BerlantiAndrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns, based on the DC Comics character Flash (Barry Allen), a costumed superhero crime-fighter who was created by Robert KanigherJohn Broome and Carmine Infantino, scheduled to premiere on Tuesday, Oct. 7 (9pm). Series regulars include Grant Gustin (Barry Allen), Candice Patton, Rick Cosnett, Danielle Panabaker and Broadway star Carlos Valdes who portrays Cisco Roman, named after the civilian identity of the DC Comic character, Vibe.  Valdes’ role on Once the Broadway musical stage show based on the 2006 film of the same name.

“I am the youngest member of this team of scientists turned superheroes,” says Valdes, who was originally introduced in CW’s earlier superhero series, Arrow. “My character is a super smart math whiz but not very socially adept. I actually relate to this character a lot. He’s a complete dork, as am I. And I think he’s actually a very sensitive character. That sensitivity allows him to become enraptured by mathematics and the patterns in nature and the patterns in his life. And I really resonate with that. More than just being a mechanical engineering genius or a dork, he is also a very lovable and sensitive person. At least I believe that.”

CBS’s cable presence, Showtime, presented a miniscule schedule at the Summer TCA gathering. Here’s hoping the Winter meeting will be more Latino forthcoming.

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