"Ten Women of Color Behind the Camera in Television Whose Careers You Should Follow"
On Friday, I laid out in detail the data on how women of color are underrepresented—and underpaid—in every aspect of the television industry. Today, I want to do something a little different. We all know about Shonda Rhimes, the single most powerful woman of color in the television business. And in the post-Girls conversation about the women of color who should be given the kind of creative control and financial backing that creators like Lena Dunham and Louis C.K. have received from HBO and FX, respectively, Issa Rae, the creator and star of the marvelous web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, has come up repeatedly as a suggestion. Rae’s work is tremendous, and unfortunately, it seems like her conversations with television networks lead her to conclude it was better to retain creative control and stay on the web rather than surrender her vision in exchange for a budget and amplification, and that rigidity on the networks’ part is a loss for them, and her, and us.
But it’s also worth remembering the women of color writing for network television who are less immediately visible because they don’t also appear in front of the camera. I called up a couple of television writers whose work I enjoy and asked them to recommend their colleagues, and added a few of my own. These are just a few of the women of color whose work is worth watching, and supporting. Some of them have already run their own shows. And I’d love to see more of them get a chance to do so in the future. In no particular order:
1) Nahnatchka Khan: Khan came up as a writer and producer on comedies like Malcolm in the Middle and American Dad*. She created Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23, starring Dreama Walker, Krysten Ritter, and James Van Der Beek, which premiered on ABC earlier this month.
2) Denise Thé: Thé got her staff writing start on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and has since gone on to serve as the story editor on Medium and to write for Cold Case and Person of Interest.
3) Mara Brock Akil: She created Girlfriends and that show’s spinoff The Game. She’s a consulting producer on Cougar Town. And she wrote Sparkle, the Motown period piece that will be Whitney Houston’s last movie, and Gabrielle Union star vehicle Being Mary Jane, both of which are due out this year.
4) Silvia Olivas: Olivas co-produced Moesha and The Brothers Garcia, part of an initiative to make shows with Latino characters that would appeal to diverse audiences (these days, we just get Rob!). Recently, she’s been writing for children’s shows like Martha Speaks and Special Agent Oso.
5) Maurissa Tancharoen: Part of the Whedonverse by marriage (Tancharoen is married to Jed Whedon), Tancharoen wrote for Dollhouse, and currently is writing and producing in the Spartacus franchise for Starz.
6) Aisha Muharrar: Muharrar writes what I think are consistently some of the warmest episodes on Parks and Recreation, including “Kaboom,” involving prank volunteerism, and this season’s “Born and Raised,” the show’s rebuke to birtherism.
7) Stacy Littlejohn: She created MTV’s Single Ladies, wrote for both Wanda Sykes and Cedric the Entertainer, and has produced Life With Bonnie and All of Us.
8) Cherry Chevapravatdumrong: Another veteran of Seth MacFarlane shows, Chevapravatdumrong is a long time Family Guy writer and story editor, including credits on the series’ movies.
9) Natalie Chaidez : She’s produced In Plain Sight, V, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Heroes, Judging Amy, Cracker: Mind Over Murder, and New York Undercover and written for all those shows as well as Kojak, Skin, and Past Life. Need I say more?
10) Elaine Ko: Another veteran of the Family Guy writers’ room, Ko is presently a writer and executive story editor on Modern Family, one of the most successful comedies on television.
*I was totally surprised by this, but it’s notable how many women on this list are veterans of Seth MacFarlane shows.