CBS Launches New Initiative to Provide More TV Roles for Performers With Disabilities

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CBS announced Thursday its Performers With Disabilities Talent Initiative in an effort to give historically underrepresented performers increased opportunities on television. The initiative will begin taking effect in the 2022-2023 broadcast season.

The network says it is committed to achieving 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.

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“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 vice president 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 the gap.”

As part of the new initiative, CBS has created an expanded database of performers with disabilities in consultation with advocacy groups, outreach, independent research and open calls. CBS applied these new resources in the 2022-2023 broadcast and pilot season and is actively rolling them out across Paramount Global brands.

The CBS Performers With Disabilities Talent Initiative will also afford select performers the opportunity to participate in a series of customized career advancement programs over the course of the broadcast season. They include:

  • Casting 101: an informational panel this fall about the entertainment industry that will offer career guidance on what casting directors are looking for during auditions; how to obtain representation; advice regarding headshots, résumés, and demo reels; how casting directors discover and track talent; and a Q&A session with CBS executives.

  • Acting Workshops: Three acting workshops that are meant to give feedback and acting tips will be held over the year with one in-person event in both Los Angeles and New York and one national event via Zoom.

  • Open Call: A yearly open call in advance of each pilot season will be held consider new and up-and-coming performers with disabilities.

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In October, the Paramount Office of Global Inclusion will present a Performers With Disabilities Summit in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Additional details about this event will be announced shortly.

This new initiative joins CBS’ previously announced commitments to improve inclusion and representation for Black, Indigenous and people of color in writers’ rooms, casting and new series creation and development.

“There were many people instrumental in bringing this initiative to fruition, including Eric Goldberg, director of talent and casting, and Rosalie Joseph,” Lyon said. “I’d also like to thank 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, who have been supportive partners with an incredible breadth of knowledge throughout this process. 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.”

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