Tag Archives: #DiversityisHard

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.