The casting of actors and actresses is changing to better reflect America’s demographic diversity. Research from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) indicates that minorities are closing the casting gap and women are making some headway, too.
A review of acting employment statistics related to ethnicity, gender and age indicates progress is being made to reduce imbalances favoring white men under age 40. SAG compiles its figures from casting data cards supplied by producers.
White performers were cast in 79.3% of film and television roles in 1996, compared with 14.7% for blacks, 3.9% for Hispanics, 1.8% for Asians andPacific Islanders, and .3% for Native Americans.
The number of roles filled by nonwhite actors and actresses increased 26.8% between 1995 and 1996, with black actors making the largest gains. The 79.3% of roles played by whites in 1996 represents the lowest percentage since SAG was founded in 1933.
During the last five years Hispanics have made steady gains. Hispanics got 55% more acting jobs in 1996 than they did in 1992. Meanwhile, only .3% of roles went to Native Americans in 1996, a seven-year low.
Women seem to be having less success in closing the gender earnings gap than the minority gap. Minority women saw a 3% increase in all acting jobs between 1995 and 1996. The greatest pay disparity between actors and actresses is in motion pictures, but television roles pay women only slightly more.
The number of leading roles played by actresses rose from 37% in 1992 to 40% in 1996, but apparently at the expense of supporting parts. For the last five years actresses have received an average of 33% of all supporting work.
Actresses received 35% of SAG jobs in 1996, a percentage that’s changed little in the last five years. However, women picked up 2% more voice-over assignments in 1996.
All categories of men, women and ethnic groups benefited from a 5% hike in commercial work among SAG members in 1996. The least improvement for women and minorities was in television and motion pictures.
* More than 350,000 adults act every year in roles ranging from community theater to Broadway productions, television, commercials and motion pictures. Most acting jobs are amateur rather than professional ones.
* Age 30 to 50 is prime time for an acting career. Nearly 54% of Screen Actors Guild members are between 30 and 49. Slightly more than 23% of SAG members are younger than 30; about 18% are between 50 and 69; and only 4.8% are 70 or older.
* Nearly two out of every three SAG acting jobs in 1996 went to performers under age 40. The number of jobs for actors outnumbered those for actresses by nearly a 2-1 ratio.
* Acting income is poorly distributed, with celebrities taking the lion’s share. SAG members collectively earned $1.5 billion in 1996, but 80% of them made less than $5,000. More than 29% of SAG members reported no earnings from acting in 1996.
* Los Angeles is where actors and actresses earn the most, followed by New York, Chicago, Florida and San Francisco. Angelenos took home almost half the pot doing commercial work in 1997.
* The wage disparity between actors and actresses remains huge: Men typically earn twice as much as women. SAG contracts for actresses exceeded $472 million in 1997, while actors with SAG contracts received more than $928 million.
* Commercials and television account for more than 72% of income earned by actors and actresses. Less than 23% comes from motion pictures. Extras receive about 4% of the money.
* Most performers live in California, New York or Florida.