CBS Launches a New Performers with Disabilities Talent Initiative, Tied to Upcoming TV Season

CBS is expanding its representation and inclusion programs to launch a new “CBS Performers with Disabilities Talent Initiative.” The plan, which starts with the upcoming 2022-2023 TV season, is to make sure the Eye network’s programming includes “meaningful representation and inclusion for all underrepresented groups, including performers with disabilities in series regular, guest star or co-starring roles in current series and pilots, playing characters specifically written with a disability as well as roles that do not specify one.”

The new initiative comes following the 2019 Ruderman Family Foundation campaign to increase the audition opportunities for performers with disabilities and improve the portrayal of disabilities in television. CBS was the first network to sign that pledge, to increase the number of roles that cast actors with disabilities.

Now, the new CBS Performers with Disabilities Talent Initiative includes an expanded database of performers with disabilities, which has been created at the network in consultation with advocacy groups, outreach, independent research and open calls. CBS announced on Thursday that it has applied these new resources to programs coming out of the 2022-2023 broadcast and pilot season. And beyond CBS, Paramount Global is actively rolling this out across all of its brands.

“By focusing on professional growth and supporting these performers, this initiative helps to provide opportunities and much-needed exposure in the industry,” said Claudia Lyon, executive VP of talent and casting at CBS Entertainment. “There are so many talented performers available who are often overlooked and are not being considered for roles, so our goal with this initiative is to help bridge that gap.”

In launching the program, Lyon also highlighted the work of Eric Goldberg, director of talent and casting; senior casting executive Rosalie Joseph; Marva Smalls, EVP, global head of inclusion at Paramount and EVP of public affairs, kids and family entertainment brands at Paramount; and Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i, executive vice president of entertainment diversity and inclusion at Paramount.

“The CBS casting department is looking forward to increasing visibility for performers with disabilities on screen in all roles while also increasing authentic representation on the network and Paramount Global brands,” Lyon added.

The CBS Performers with Disabilities Talent Initiative also includes various career advancement programs over the course of the broadcast season, including “Casting 101” (offering career guidance on what casting directors are looking for during auditions, how to obtain representation, advice regarding headshots/resumes/demo reels, how casting directors discover and track talent, and a Q&A session with CBS executives); acting workshops (with one in-person event in both Los Angeles and New York and one national event via Zoom); and an open call in advance of each pilot season to consider new and up-and-coming performers with disabilities.

Paramount’s office of global inclusion will also present a “Performers with Disabilities Summit” in October, timed to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

CBS has previously inacted inclusion and representation initiatives for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in writer rooms, casting, and new series creation and development.

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