CBS whiffs on casting “diverse” Nancy Drew

Back in January I wrote about the new Nancy Drew series under development at CBS and I was skeptical about the whole concept. They basically took the whole idea of Nancy Drew and threw out everything that made her unique except her name. Instead of a clever 18 year old living in a white upper middle class suburb, she was going to be a world weary 30 something detective living in gritty New York.  However, even though I devoured the books as a pre-teen like a hungry tiger, I was willing to give it chance since the new president at CBS, Glen Geller, promised a “diverse” Nancy Drew.

“She is diverse, that is the way she is written,” says the CBS president. He doesn’t specify if she is African-American, Latina or Asian-American, but he does say she will not be Caucasian. “I’d be open to any ethnicity,” he adds.

I’m always down for another WOC in a lead role, but at the time I wrote the first post I asked the question, “Can they really make white bread Nancy Drew a real WOC?” While I was traveling on business last week I got my answer, and it was a resounding “No!”

Almost as soon as I left town, the news broke that Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest, Life) had been cast as the new “diverse” Nancy Drew. Despite the fact the woman is half Persian, this casting falls far short of the expectations Geller set back in January.

When you watch Shahi walk down the street, you do not look at her and think, “There goes a WOC.” She passes for white at first glance, and second glance, and third glance. You basically have to be told she’s WOC.  Given Geller’s insistence that Nancy Drew wasn’t going to be white, I was disappointed to see that he cast someone who passes very well as white. He might as well have gone with the traditional “titian” haired white girl.

They followed up casting Shahi by casting the very white Anthony Edwards as her father, Carson Drew. So our “diverse” heroine was adopted into a Wonder Bread family, which is fine if you’re watching Full House, but not when you’ve been promised a “diverse” heroine. I wasn’t expecting Fresh off the Boat, but I was hoping for something more colorful than Family Ties.

So where is the diversity? The Hollywood press has been eating this up extolling Shahi’s Persian heritage, but they completely miss the point. The diversity here is all smoke and mirrors. CBS slides by on the barest of technicalities. They found a WOC who doesn’t look WOC and gave her a white supporting cast. Shame on the Hollywood press for eating it up like toddlers with a birthday cake.

5 thoughts on “CBS whiffs on casting “diverse” Nancy Drew

  1. It’s quite amusing how Person of Interest also tried this angle with her shortly after Taraji was let go. It just tells me that people still don’t see her as anything but white as you said. There was the constant complaint of an all white casg when there was a strong WoC that was just discarded without a second thought.y problem is that this whole thing just feels like a clutch that Sarah gladly embraces because of how her acting is critiqued. The fact that she doesn’t stop CBS from using the minority card when a PoC I wouldn’t see doing such a thing. It’s acceptable for her though because as you said, they are doing the bare basics to say that they are embracing diversity. However, they are plenty of colored actors on their network that don’t really received attention and they are on established series such as LL. Cool J. in NCIS. I am not one to have read the books and I’ve heard a number of people already boycotting because of the casting choice. K wonder how many people CBS looked act before making their decision. I mean, Nancy Drew is not going to be a unique character. The PoC novelity will wear off quickly because she will just be another know it all character that can tell your life’s story from the color of your lipstick like House in a basic, by the books police procedural.

  2. This Nancy Drew is going to be diverse based on one other thing. She is going to be either bisexual or  a lesbian.  This is why I think this. Sarah Shahi two most popular roles were a latina lesbian on the L word and of course Person of Interest Shaw, who shares her Persian heritage. She has played lead white women characters in other shows and they failed.  However CBS knows 2 things about her that are popular, she is “exotic”  and lesbians love her.  I forsee some Farsi being spoken once in awhile and a lot of teasing about her sexuality, cause we all know CBS would never come on and say she is gay.

    1. We know that her best friend George is going to be gay and in a relationship with another woman, so I expect some queer baiting between them, but I don’t expect CBS will handle it with any amount of sensitivity or respect based on past history.

  3. LOL so basically they are doing the minimum but it’s enough to “satisfy” the general meaning of diverse. I am very jaded really when I see these grand announcements, I don’t really get excited anymore. Nor am I surprised. When you create and control the system you can do whatever you want.

Leave a Reply