Taking Risks Could Increase Diversity in TV, Film: 'Mandates Aren't Enough'

Tony Hernandez, founder of Jax Media, says taking a 'gamble' on people is the best way to get more diversity both behind and in front of the camera.
Jan 15, 2019 9:05 AM ET

By Nicole Bitette

Tony Hernandez was a line producer on “Louie” when he realized there was an opportunity to create talent-driven comedic series that could be produced for a fraction of the budget of typical broadcast network comedies. The idea led him to found his production company, Jax Media, and a long-running partnership with Viacom networks, producing hits like “Broad City,” “Inside Amy Schumer,” and “Younger.”

Hernandez is of the mindset that risks are the best way to implement diversity, both behind and in front of the camera. Mandates aren’t enough. “The real change is going to come in a farm system, in letting people get the [talent representation] to get the job, or taking real risks on people. Your episode might be messed up because the person’s a rookie, but, without that, we’re going to keep pulling the same 20 diverse directors,” Hernandez explains. “We all need to take a little bit of a gamble to fix the problem, and it’s not that crazy.”

He add that the showrunners of the series he’s currently working on, Broad City, First Wives Clubs and Florida Girls have put a firm policy to employ a crew that’s diverse.

He says that Jax hires diverse individuals who might only have had one or two experiences to give them opportunities to build their skills “since no one is giving them a chance to build their resumes.” He also chooses projects that elevate minority voices and speak to audiences that are underserved.

“We want our slate to reflect our thinking,” he says. “We’ll automatically do anything that’s indisputably good, and then after that, it’s, ‘let’s find a good show that speaks to this group of people and has these faces in it.’”