Hollywood’s Brownout

The news:

After five seasons, HBO’s addictive cop drama “The Wire” went off the air March 9.

Behind the news:

The show’s absence cut into the diversity on television, having been one of few series with a largely minority cast.

Nearly half of the 84 characters who appeared on the five seasons of “The Wire” were black, according to a visual observation of the show’s Web site by The Chicago Reporter. This is fairly consistent with the real population of Baltimore, where the show was set and filmed. According to 2006 census statistics, the city was 64.4 percent black. Latinos represented 2.4 percent of the population and one percent of the casting in the show.

Experts say that most TV shows don’t reflect the racial makeup of the country. In 2006, Latinos received about 6.3 percent of all TV and theatrical roles, according to a casting report by the Screen Actors Guild. That’s less than half the percentage of Latinos within the U.S., according to census figures. African Americans made up 14.5 percent of TV and theatrical roles, roughly equal to their population nationwide.

“America has always viewed itself in one particular way with one brush stroke that lacks the diversity of colors,” said Eddie Torres, co-founder of Theatro Vista in Chicago.

Once the general population makes a demand on what programming should look like, that’s when scripts for actors will reflect the diverse content that is being requested, said Adam Moore, the guild’s New York-based associate national director of affirmative action and diversity.

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