Media Consumers for Entertainment Equality
Nickelodeon has restricted to lead role in Power Rangers to white actors only, despite the franchise’s past history of diversity and ‘colorblind’ casting. Racebending.com has written Nickelodeon’s CEO asking that he re-release the casting breakdown and give actors of color a fair and equal chance to audition for the lead role. Stay tuned for more information on how you can help!
The Power Rangers franchise is nearly two decades old and has run on children’s television in the United States for 17 seasons. Since the first season of Saban Entertainment’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, aired on FoxKids in 1993, Power Rangers has introduced two generations of American children to incredible growing monsters, interlocking robot suit zord-things, a floating disembodied blue head in a tube, and a diverse cast of heroes.
In early May 2010, casting breakdowns for the roles were distributed throughout the industry, including a posting on Actor’s Access. Roles for the Green, Blue, Pink, Yellow, and Gold Ranger were listed as open to actors and actresses of “Any ethnicity”–matching the franchise’s tradition of casting actors of various ethnicities to play the show’s diverse ensembles of heroes. In stark contrast, the casting break down for the lead role, “Red Ranger-Reese” looked like this:
[ RED RANGER - REESE ]
Caucasian male, 18 – 23 to play 17-19 years.
Reese is an attractive young man with super hero looks and a slim athletic build, approx 5’10″. Natural leader, reserved quiet and mysterious. Martial arts a plus.
This casting notice raised the eyebrows of Racebending.com supporters not only because it recalls similarly worded casting calls used for The Last Airbender–another Nickelodeon property–but also because of Power Rangers’ past history of diversity. Power Rangers has an established precedent for considering and even hiring actors from underrepresented communities when casting for this lead role, which is not locked to any specific ethnicity. Because of the franchise’s past willingness to consider actors from underrepresented groups as well as actors who are white, several of the Red Rangers have been played by actors of color–including Selwyn Ward, Pua Magasiva, Brandon McLaren, and last season’s Eka Darville.
Yet, after only recently acquiring the franchise, Nickelodeon has restricted the lead role of this children’s series to only white actors in its casting process. While we applaud that Nickelodeon will audition actors and actresses of any ethnicity to play the other Power Rangers, restricting submissions for the leader of the Power Rangers–and main character of the series– to white actors still signifies a glass ceiling.
Racebending.com surveyed the diversity of human characters in shows aired on Nicktoons from 1991 to present, and found that only 25% of lead characters were people of color. This number hardly reflects the diversity of the American children in Nick’s audience, 45% of whom are people of color.
The concept behind Racebending.com’s protest of this casting breakdown is simple: Given the “Power Rangers” franchise’s rich history of diversity, Nickelodeon should not discriminate by excluding actors of color from auditioning for the lead role. We are not asking that actors of color be given special treatment or consideration for this role, but that they be given the same opportunity the white actors currently being sought have received. We are asking that Nickelodeon afford actors of color a fair and equal chance to audition for the main character and the lead hero, as previous Power Ranger seasons have done in the past.
We are simply asking that Nickelodeon at least consider actors of color for the lead role of Red Ranger.
On Friday, May 21st, Racebending.com sent a letter to Nickelodeon Global Network Ventures, Inc.’s Chief Executive Officer, Jeff Dunn. The letter, which can be viewed here, urges Nickelodeon to immediately re-release the casting breakdown for the character of “Red Ranger – Reese,” reworded to allow actors of all ethnicities the chance to submit and be considered for this role. Racebending.com writes: “Re-releasing the casting breakdown and allowing actors of all ethnicities an equal chance to audition for the Red Ranger lead role will expand the pool of talent available for “Power Rangers,” and reaffirm Nickelodeon’s interest in diversity and commitment to a fair casting process.”
We hope Nickelodeon will respond to our concerns and make the role open to submissions from actors of all ethnicities.
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