*Actress Jessica Williams has been a Jackie Robinson of sorts on television, becoming the first black woman to play a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” in January 2012, and in 2014 becoming the first black woman to have a recurring role on HBO’s “Girls.”
Aside from its nudity issue, the Lena Dunham vehicle has been the source of much public discourse over its lack of racial diversity among the main cast. (Remember, Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s Huffington Post essay?)
Donald Glover appeared for a split second in Season 2 as Hannah’s (Dunham) Republican love interest, but only after a ton of backlash – wondering how a show set in culturally diverse New York City could feature an all-white main cast. Lesley Arfin, a writer on the show, responded at the time with the tweet: “What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME.”
Arfin’s sarcasm aside, executive producer Jenni Konner told TV critics in January they took the backlash seriously.
“We heard that criticism. And there was parts of it we agreed with, and we are trying to address it still,” she said.
Season 3, which wraps this Sunday, included the addition of Williams as Hannah’s co-worker at GQ magazine. As for ever adding a character of color in a main role , executive producer Judd Apatow believes it isn’t necessary.
“I don’t think that there’s any reason why any show should feel an obligation to do that,” he said. “I think there might be some obligation to have shows about all sorts of different people, but if it’s organic to the show, then we should do it, and if we don’t have story lines which serve it naturally, I don’t think that we should do it.
“I mean, in the history of television, you could look at every show on TV and say, ‘How come there’s not an American Indian on this show?’ ‘How come there’s not an Asian person on this show?’ It really has to come from the story and the stories that we are trying to tell. We want to accurately portray New York and groups of people. So we are going to do it where it feels honest to these characters in this world.”
Ultimately, “Girls” reflects the sole vision of its creator Lena Dunham, who in the past has explained she writes the show from “a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me.” She added that writing the experience of a black character would involve a certain insight that she just didn’t have.”
Below, Dunham talks about the pressure to add racial diversity.
“Girls” has been renewed for a fourth season, to premiere in 2015. The Season 3 finale airs Sunday, March 23, at 10 p.m. on HBO. Watch the promo below.