Star Trek, Shadows, Riverdale & More Cast Members Talk Diversity: SDCC

Welcome to Comic-Con@Home's "TV Guide Magazine Fan Favorites" (a virtual SDCC) a panel full of crazy talented actors hosted by Damian Holbrook, and including a "who's who" of current and popular shows: Robbie Amell, Kennedy McMann, Richard Harmon, Lindsey Morgan, Harvey Guillen, Alex Newell, Chris Chalk, Ashleigh Murray, Hale Appleman, and Jeri Ryan. Of course, Amell is from Upload, McMann and Murray from The CW teen series Nancy Drew and Riverdale, respectively. Harmon and Morgan are from The 100, Newell from Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, Guillen from What We Do in the Shadows, and Chalk stars in HBO's Perry Mason. Rounding out the line-up, we have Appleman from The Magicians and, of course, Ryan is from Star Trek: Voyager and now Star Trek: Picard.

SDCC TV Guide Magazine's Fan Favorites (SDCC Image)

Now, this SDCC panel covers a lot of ground, especially in the way of diversity and representation, and each panelist had a lot of great things to say, so let's go one-by-one to make sure everyone gets their say.

Lindsey Morgan: Their season finale actually managed to push through and finish filming right before everything shut down due to COVID-19, though it was a push and some very long days. Lindsey talks about how great it's been getting to play not only a Latina character but an engineer no less – and that is especially meaningful for representation once her character becomes disabled in later seasons.

Kennedy McMann: Kennedy talks about all the differences between this adaptation of Nancy Drew and how it departs from the original books and portrayals from the 1930s. She touches on the blowback the show has gotten for modernizing and adding diversity not only to Nancy's friends but to taking steps to make Nancy behave like a typical modern teenager, which yes, means having sex. She is 19 after all.

Jeri Ryan: This is the show that brought so much diversity in the early days of television – creator Gene Roddenberry truly was a pioneer in that aspect with having a Russian on the bridge in the middle of the cold war and not only that but an Asian man, a Black woman, as well as a Jewish guy. It was unprecedented and radical, especially for the time.

Chris Chalk: Bringing diversity to his role in Perry Mason gives him as an actor a lot more freedom, especially in the context of the show as a reboot; it turned an old white character into a young black policeman. It's not done just for diversity or an illusion, we go home with this character, see his wife and kid and it's such great representation, especially for him as a fan of the original Perry Mason, which was basically all white. In regards to the 1930s world of Perry Mason, "it's the same shitty world then as it is now" and it's tough, but it brings real representation that television so desperately needs.

Ashleigh Murray: Going off of that, Ashleigh talked about how going from Riverdale to Katy Keene has opened up a wealth of idiosyncrasies for her portrayal of Josie as a Black woman. She talks about showing her hair wrapped up in the mornings and clapping back and those small cultural things that are so integral to her identity and the identity of the character that there wasn't the time or story capacity on Riverdale to show.

Harvey Guillen: Guillen talks about how growing up he didn't see any chubby Latino kids on TV, so he figured that door was locked and closed for him. This is why representation matters – it's not so much about telling the stories that beat you over the head with representation or social justice issues, but it's being visible and seen in every other story. He talks about how in the show when we go to his house and see bunelos on the table that he made the ones you see in the show because he wants the story to be as authentic as possible because the details and everybody's culture and stories matter and deserve to be seen.

Robbie Amell: Yes yes, I know Amell is technically repping his new show Upload this comic con, but since the talk turned diversity in hiring, of course, Code 8 came up. He talks a lot about how his fan-funded feature was open to hiring anyone and everyone: the only requirement was for the actors to be Canadian, for visa reasons. On diversity, he had this to say, "The fact that racism is up for debate is really sick and I think that as a white person you just need to hold other white people accountable. If you see something, if you hear something, it's time to speak up and not stay silent."

SDCC TV Guide Magazine's Fan Favorites (SDCC Image)

Alex Newell: Continuing into another avenue of diversity, Newell talks about LGBTQ representation and playing genderqueer roles as a bigger black person. "I would watch TV and there would be no one that looked like me, no one that acted like me, there was no one who represented me. … If you're being silent about a walk of life and you're not representing that walk of life on your television show, your movie, in media, then you're saying that walk of life does not exist and it's not worth enough to be told, that story is not worthy enough to be seen."

Hale Appleman: He talks about gay representation and how actors, especially when he was starting, are pigeonholed in that "witty queen" flamboyant gay trope. When the opportunity to play Eliot in The Magicians came around, he was thrilled at being able to bring his own experiences and representation to a character with so many layers and depth, like in the book series the show was based on. "I'm really grateful for that and the thing that makes me weep is meeting the kids that fell in love with him that identify with him, that have found chosen families because of him. … The show opened my eyes to playing a character on television that I didn't think was possible six years ago when I auditioned for it, I didn't see those parts. It was kind of a new beginning."

Richard Harmon: He talks about representing the "d-bag" on the panel as far as his character goes (as Holbrook puts it), and he talks about fan interaction especially in the early seasons of the show. They got hostile, especially after certain things his character in the show has done. "I hate you" was a common thing he said he heard, and he also mentioned he got a lot of hate, however, a large portion of the fans have come around to liking him as the series has progressed and delved into his character over the last 7 seasons.

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Eden ArnoldAbout Eden Arnold

Having spent far too much time in front of the television growing up, Eden has lots of opinions about television (as well as movies and everything else). She puts this to good use along with her journalism degree and writing experience with by-lines over the years in many print publications, books, and online media outlets. You can find her on Twitter at @Edenhasopinions
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