'I've never worked on a show where above the line and below the line, there were more people of color,' says Hunt
Shots Fired ruined other projects in Hollywood for Helen Hunt.
Created by Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythewood, the Fox limited series examines how two racially charged shootings force long-festering tension in this small North Carolina town to the surface. What made this a unique experience for Hunt, who plays Governor Patricia Eamons, was the level of diversity behind the camera.
“I’ve never worked on a show where above the line and below the line, there were more people of color,” Hunt tells EW. “When I went back to work on shows after, I was horrified that I show up all the time on these sets where there’s one [or two] black crew members and rarely a black director on great shows made by smart, progressive people.”
While some strides have been made, there’s still work to be done. The Episodic Television Diversity Report released by the Directors Guild of America revealed that of the 4,000 episodes produced for television in the 2015-2016 season, only 17 percent were directed by women and 19 percent were directed by minority men and women.
Given the show’s subject matter, the Shots Fired creators leveraged their power to make sure they had a diverse group of directors.
“We wanted to make sure that half of the directors were female, given that we were in a position of power. Also, [we wanted to make sure] that the majority of our directors were people of color, as well,” says Prince-Bythewood. In addition to Prince-Bythewood and Bythewood, the show’s episodes were directed by Millicent Shelton (The Flash, Scandal), Kasi Lemmons (Black Nativity), Malcolm D. Lee (Barbershop: The Next Cut), Ami Canaan Mann (Jack & Ryan), and The Silence of the Lamb‘s Jonathan Demme.
Hunt, who recently directed an episode of This Is Us, remembers one day on set where she found herself standing with five other members of the DGA (see the photo below), which drove home the point that panels aren’t the solution; the only way to promote change is to just hire. “You can’t think it’s just going to evolve. It’s up to you to fix it if you’re in any kind of hiring position,” she says, noting that Ryan Murphy, whom she just worked with on Feud, is “really putting his money where his mouth is in terms of hiring women.”
“We’re still asleep — not that I don’t love all of these white guys that I work with, but wouldn’t it be nice to have black women around and men,” she says.
Shots Fired—which also stars Sanaa Lathan, Stephan James, and Stephen Moyer — airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox.