Comedian Josh Thomas has apologised after comments he made in 2016 about casting people of colour on TV resurfaced online.
Thomas made the comments at a TV panel discussion in Sydney, alongside Rosehaven stars Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor, and US TV creator Dan Harmon.
During the discussion, Pacquola recalled she was aware her ABC series Rosehaven featured mainly white actors.
She said the Tasmanian-filmed show held open casting calls but very few non-white actors attended.
Josh Thomas then weighed in, prefacing his take by asking, “Is this going to sound racist?”
“We’ve tried really hard for years now, but I think most of the immigrants in Australia have come pretty recently,” he said.
“Generally first or second generation immigrants don’t want to be actors. They have real jobs, you know.”
He continued, “The other thing about making a television show that I didn’t know about and I found quite confronting was you have to pick every person in the show. So it’s like, ‘Josh, what would you like the 7-Eleven worker to look like?’”
“Do you make them Indian, or is that offensive? Or do you make them white, is it a bit like you’re lying really? What do you do?”
Pacquola adds “it’s taking a job away from an Indian actor if you don’t.”
Has anyone told @JoshThomas87 that 44:00 onwards of this SOH ‘The Writer’s Room’ is infamous in many-a rooms/masterclasses?
— Moreblessing Maturure (@MoreblessingMa) June 14, 2020
‘Lack of experienced performers’
Later in the discussion, Thomas suggests the reason there are less actors of colour on Australian TV is due to a lack of experienced performers.
“When none of the others shows are hiring people who aren’t white, finding an experienced actor who is not white is really hard,” he said.
“Then you find yourself in a situation where you’re like, ‘We want to be more diverse, but this person doesn’t have as much experience as this person.’
“Then it’s hard to know what to do because you don’t want to be favouring people.”
Actor and writer Moreblessing Maturure brought the video to light on Twitter, writing Thomas’ comments are “infamous” in writing rooms and masterclasses.
“The short hand is “Don’t be The Josh™️ of the room,” Maturure wrote.
Josh Thomas accused of double standards in casting
The video sparked discussion about diversity on Australian TV. Many on Twitter accused Thomas of double standards, given he and other Please Like Me stars were new to acting themselves.
“Josh Thomas, with no acting experience, wrote himself the lead role in his show and cast his white friends (also not actors) in the same show,” one person wrote.
“But ok sure people (of colour) should only be hired if they come with extensive experience!”
The problem isn’t whether it’s offensive to cast an Indian as the shop clerk. The problem is that the Indian isn’t cast as the lead going to the shop. Just Because that stereotype is realistic to him doesn’t mean it needs to be the norm. And there’s so many white shops clerks? pic.twitter.com/STTAovmSmL
— Hunter Page-Lochard (@hunterpage) June 15, 2020
I’d never written a script until I did @ABCIndigenous Black Comedy, I never acted until @RyanJGriffen’s Cleverman. I’d never written Animation until @Joshstrangehill gave me a shot for @disenchantment. Sometimes all people need is a shot, it’s not hard.
— Senator Briggs (@Briggs) June 15, 2020
The reason that Josh Thomas video is so disturbing is that people we think are on our side are not. White moderates are more dangerous than outright racists.
— Michelle Law (@ms_michellelaw) June 15, 2020
Josh Thomas apologises for diversity casting comments
After the backlash, Josh Thomas issued an apology describing the take as “dumb, illogical and insensitive”.
“There’s a clip circulating on Twitter of me on a panel a few years ago talking about diversity casting,” he wrote.
“In it I am being a really dumb, illogical, insensitive idiot and it’s gross. I’m super ashamed of the comments I made, and I would like to apologise.”
He went on, “Authentic diversity in casting (and behind the scenes) is something that is really important to me, and that has been important to me for a long time.
“When making Please Like Me I always went into the casting process with it as a top priority and then fall short, many times.
“The conversation about why the casting process in Australia is structured to keep out people who aren’t white and straight, with symmetrical faces and no body fat percentage – is an important one to have.
“But the answers I offered in this clip are no way constructive or correct. I am committed to doing better.”
— Josh Thomas (@JoshThomas87) June 15, 2020
On Monday, Josh Thomas queried on Twitter whether Australian cheese brand Coon should change its name due to the fact the word is a racial slur.
Some of his followers agreed, others argued the company is named after its founder’s surname and should retain the name.
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.