The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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Arrow and Flash Creator Greg Berlanti Aims to Make TV Superheroes 'Look Like America'

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Pictured from left: Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon, Candice Patton as Iris West, Rila Fukushima as Tatsu Yamashiro, and David Ramsey as John Diggle

 

However, the prolific producer and his team aren’t simply moving the needle forward for LGBT people on TV, they are also taking aim at improving racial diversity in entertainment by including a wide range of actors in numerous roles, reintroducing historically white characters like Iris West (played by Candice Patton) as a woman of color on The Flash and spotlighting strong Asian women such as DC’s sword-swinging superhero Katana/Tatsu Yamahiro (Rila Fukushima) on Arrow. “I always think we can do better, but we are trying,” he says. “I think Shonda Rhimes is still the best showrunner in the business in terms of diversity in general and I respect a lot of what she’s done in that regard. We often say that we want our shows to look and feel like America looks, and that makes for better storytelling. It’s a conscious choice and so rewarding to do what we do.”

He knows part of crafting shows that “look and feel like America” means hiring a range of voices to work on the projects. In addition to LGBT people like himself, Berlanti’s team also contains a larger number of women than men — a rarity for a popular action series.

“More than half of the writing staff are women on both of the shows combined, but I say we can even be doing better with more female directors and that’s an area where I want to keep improving,” he says. “It’s very easy in this business to do things the way you used to do them because it feels safe, but ultimately that doesn’t make things better. To make things better you have to commit to really making a change, and entertainment is better when there are different voices involved — it just is. So it’s nice to see the growth that’s happened over the past 15 years, but there’s opportunity for more.”

But lest anyone worry Berlanti and his team’s commitment to advancing equality in entertainment supersedes their geek cred, fear not. The self-proclaimed comic nerd knows it’s the story that comes first.

“Everyone involved in the shows are true fans of the genre and the books, and that just adds an extra level of enthusiasm for the work we’re getting to do,” he says. “A lot of times we watch the cuts or see the dailies and we feel like we’re just the first group of fans getting to see the material as much as we’re people making it. It can be very surreal.”

He adds, “The primary agenda has to be telling great stories. As a means toward that, it’s about opening up your own world. And if you do that, I think everything gets better.”  

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