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By Daniel M. Mayeda
Vice President and Legal Counsel, East West Players

TURN ON THE TELEVISION on any given night and you can count on one hand the number of Asian faces you'll see. This year, the absence of people of color on TV is especially glaring as not a single non-white leading color or theme could be found on any of the twenty-six new television series premiering on the four major networks.

East West Players   
It's Story - Part 1

East West Players (EWP), the nation's first and foremost Asian Pacific American Theatre, was founded in 1965 by nine individuals w/ the unprecedented idea of creating a home dedicated to promoting Asian Pacific American work and talent not available under Hollywood's limited opportunities for Asian Americans.

EWP started with its nine founders and today works with over six hundred people annually. They perform for over 40,000 people per year. EWP alumni have been nominated for Oscars, won Emmys, Tonys, Obies, Ovation Awards, LA Weekly Awards, Dramalogue Awards and many more. Over 75% of all Asian Pacific performers in the acting unions have worked with EWP.

AS YOU MAY HAVE HEARD OR READ, EWP is working to change the status quo. EWP is one of 18 different organizations, including the Media Action Network for Asian Americans ( MANAA), the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, the Organization of Chinese Americans and the newly-formed Asian American Coalition for Total Inclusion On the Networks (AACTION), that have joined to form the ad hoc Asian Pacific American Media Coalition. The APA Media Coalition, in turn, is one of the four equal partners - along with the NAACP, the National Latino Media Coalition (an umbrella organization representing ten Hispanic/Latino groups) and American Indians in Film and Television (AIF&T) - in a national, multi-cultural coalition that is pressing for a measurable, lasting increase in diversity on network television.

THE MULTI-CULTURAL COALITION is chaired by AIF&T chair, Sonny Skyhawk and three former Congressmen: Kweisi Mfume (CEO of the NAACP), Esteban Torres and Norman Mineta. By threatening viewer and advertiser boycotts, waging a high profile publicity campaign and holding evidentiary hearings, the coalition has instigated ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC to take action to address the networks' lack of diversity, both in front of and behind the cameras.

FOR ITS PART, EWP drafted and disseminated a petition entitled "The Whitewashing of Network Television Must End" that garnered the endorsements of over 800 organizations and individuals, including the nation's leading civil rights and media advocacy groups and persons of every race and background; held a press conference in front of the Union Center for the Arts at which EWP Council of Governors' co-chair, George Takei, denounced the networks' presentation of a fantasy version of America that excludes people of color and that tends to treat Asian Americans, when they are depicted at all, as foreigners; and met with the presidents of NBC and Fox to educate them about APAs' particular concerns and to seek equal opportunities for APAs to be full participants in the television industry.

DIRECT NEGOTIATIONS between top network executives and the co-chairs of the multi-cultural coalition has resulted in strong commitments to diversify network television. As this newsletter goes to press, written agreements are being finalized to memorialize the networks' commitment to diversity.

East West Players
It's Story - Part 2   

Artistic Directors Mako, Nobu McCarthy and current Artistic Director, Tim Dang, have operated out of a modest storefront facility on Santa Monica Boulevard, in Silver Lake.

1996 marks EWP's move into a larger facility at the Union Center for the Arts in downtown Los Angeles to provide programs that keep pace with the growth of the Asian American community in Los Angeles.


For an extensive list of media and advocacy resources - in addition to the East West Players - that are available for the Asian/Asian Pacific American communities, click HERE to get the info.

To learn about the films that Asian Pacific Americans have appeared on from the 1900's to now, click HERE to get the info.

To discover what other Asian Pacific Americans feel about stereotypes, diversity, racism, etc. as it affects our communities, read their articles that are listed HERE.

Find out about the history of Asian Pacific Americans from the 1700's to the present and all the trials and tribulations that we (as a community) have gone through by clicking HERE. .

EACH NETWORK'S AGREEMENT is different but they may include such elements as:

  • the hiring of additional writers for network series in an effort designed to increase the number of experienced writers of color who can contribute minority perspectives and eventually become "show runners" for new series built around their ideas;
  • a commitment to increase the casting of actors of color in lead and recurring roles;
  • a commitment to increase the number of development deals with talented minorities and minority-owned production companies;
  • the implementation of meaningful training programs for writers, directors and executive positions at the networks;
  • the dissemination of written policies signed by top executives that emphasize the network's commitment towards employment of a diverse work force at all levels;
  • tying compensation and bonuses to an executive's success at meeting the network's diversity goals; and
  • the presentation of seminars for program producers at which the network's commitment to diversity in casting, writing and directing will be emphasized and community organizations will be invited to help educate the creative community on avoiding stereotypes and on the creative opportunities opened up by writing about and casting people of color in realistic roles.

THE FULL IMPACT of all of these changes probably will not be known for several years but EWP views them as very positive steps towards diversifying network television. EWP also intends to closely monitor each of the network's progress towards meeting its diversity goals and will not hesitate to work with its coalition partners to employ other strategies if necessary to effect additional change in this area. In addition, after agreements with ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are finalized, EWP, working with the multi-cultural coalition, intends to press other entertainment industry entities to diversify, including the WB and UPN networks, film and television production companies and talent agencies.

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