Queer Eye’s Tan France says diversity in British TV is ‘light years’ behind the industry in the US | Ents & Arts News
Diversity in British television is “light years” behind the US, and it only pays “lip service” to fixing the problem, Queer Eye’s Tan France has said.
The 38-year-old from Doncaster found global fame when he joined Netflix’s reboot of Queer Eye in 2018, and is now the international editor of the Edinburgh TV festival.
The fashionista, who grew up in a Pakistani-Muslim family, now lives with his husband and newborn son in Salt Lake City in the US, and is a US citizen.
France said he is using his role at the festival to highlight what he calls the “embarrassing” lack of diverse talent in the industry.
He told the PA news agency the UK is “absolutely” behind the US when it comes to diversity on and off screen: “America isn’t obviously where it needs to be as far as representing marginalised groups – but we’re light years ahead of the UK.
“I think often within the UK, it’s lip service. I think that so many networks said during the Black Lives Matter movement that, ‘we’re going to do better, we’re going to share more diverse stories’, and it’s been a year and a couple of months, it doesn’t take that long to make a show. Where are they?”
France added that he feels tokenism has become part of the UK television industry: “Yes, there may have been a person who’s added into a primetime slot. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a version of tokenism, we don’t see enough.
“If you add one person, that’s not representation – that is tokenism. I think that the US does a much better job. And I’m not just saying this because I work for Netflix.”
The presenter also said that in the UK, Asian performers are often seen in stereotypical roles, comparing this with the success of US shows such as Never Have I Ever, a coming-of-age comedy series featuring an Indian-American family.
He said: “Whereas in the UK, it is a fight for them to see me as a viable primetime entertainer. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a concern that they think that the audience won’t see me as an entertainer because they only ever see Asians in a few capacities
“The taxi driver, the restaurant owner or the terrorist in the news, we are so much more than what we’re portrayed as in the media.”
France said “every Asian person I know, knows how to have a laugh”, adding he is hired in the US for his comedy talents.
He said he receives weekly offers for work in the US, but in the UK he has to “beg for scraps”, and that he believes commissioners think putting people of colour on primetime TV is “too big of a risk”.
France suggested networks should work on bringing in diverse talent both behind and in front of the camera, rather than chasing “low hanging fruit”.
His comments come as a survey of 1,300 actors commissioned by the Sir Lenny Henry Centre For Media Diversity suggested racism is widespread in the UK entertainment industry, with non-white performers saying roles continue to stereotype their race.
More than half (55%) of those surveyed said they had directly experienced racism in the industry.
The report also said the majority of respondents (71%) found problems when it came to hair and make-up, saying departments are often ill-equipped to cater to different skin-tones or hairstyles.