Season 5 of Netflix’s animated hit BOJACK HORSEMAN premieres on Sept. 14. The show’s proven to be both a critical and commercial hit, but one criticism has dogged the series since its inception–the “whitewashing” of the character of Diane Nguyen who is Vietnamese American, but is voiced by white actress Allison Brie (GLOW).
Slate’s Inkoo Kang spoke to BOJACK’s creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg about this issue and instead of being defensive about the choice, he acknowledged that the choice was a misstep (which still praising Brie’s performance in the role)–expanding on a tweet he sent last January: “I love my entire cast, but if I were doing it today, I would not cast the show (or any show) with all white people. I’ve really soured on the idea of ‘color-blind’ casting as an excuse to not pay attention.”
Short answer: I love my entire cast, but if I were doing it today, I would not cast the show (or any show) with all white people. I’ve really soured on the idea of “color-blind” casting as an excuse to not pay attention. https://t.co/DG8DDoD9QX
— Raphael Bob-Waksberg (@RaphaelBW) January 15, 2018
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Inkoo Kang: Your tweet about “souring” on color-blind casting implies you had a change of heart. What was your thinking process then, what made you change your mind, and how do you think about casting now?
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: One of the main things that’s changed between when I cast the show and eight months ago, when I tweeted that, is my understanding of my own responsibility. I didn’t want to cast a show with all white people, [but] I was surprised by how easily it happened. I understand that I’m taking a frustratingly passive voice there, but that’s how it felt to me. I was casting all these people one at a time, sometimes several months apart, [and then] it dawned on me: Oh, these are all white people. I wish I had been paying closer attention at the time. You can be a “good, woke person” who cares about this kind of thing, but if you are not actively making it a top priority, it doesn’t happen. The way the industry’s set up, the people you’re gonna get on the acting side and the writing side are going to be white people.
So that’s why I soured on the term “color-blind,” because I felt like I was being color-blind. I was just casting whoever was great and I wasn’t really thinking about their race, and then I was surprised to discover all the people I thought were great were white people.
When I think about casting now, I try to be very race-conscious. My casting director, Linda Lamontagne, and I are actively looking for people of color for every new character, and that’s made a big difference in how we cast the show. I hope that is reflected even to a layperson observing the show. [Note: In the new season, Hong Chau and Stephanie Beatriz play major supporting characters.] I’m very proud of the movement we’ve made, but we’re always going to be somewhat hobbled in our efforts because of our original sin.
If I was making a short or even a movie, then that project would be done and I could learn from it. But the fact that I’m still making this show with mostly white people in every episode fills me with tremendous guilt. I say this not to just flagellate myself or to show off what a great guy I am, but because I want to put this on the record and to hold myself up to this when I go about making other shows. Also so that other white people making shows can see that this has been something that I have wrestled with, [instead of] looking at my show and saying, “Oh well, he did it and it’s OK, so maybe it’s not that big a deal.”
I would [also] like to be very open that my guilt does not solely come from a place of white progressivism. I do think that the show has been hurt by our all-white cast.
To read the full interview, go to Slate: BoJack Horseman’s Raphael Bob-Waksberg Talks About Coming to Terms With the “Original Sin” of the Show’s All-White Cast