- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2000

NEW YORK

There's a doctor who teaches medical students, and a Secret Service agent who guards the first lady. One manages a Wall Street firm, one's an anchorman, one's a high school principal and another chases a fugitive.

All are roles filled by black actors in new TV series on the networks' fall schedules.

A year after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People made an issue of the absence of minorities in prominent roles on new TV shows, things have changed in Hollywood.

Former "Homicide" actor Andre Braugher has the starring role as a doctor in "Gideon's Crossing," the only new drama on ABC's schedule. CBS cited the NAACP's concerns in renewing "City of Angels," a drama with a predominantly black cast, despite mediocre ratings.

The NAACP negotiated agreements with the major networks to increase minority participation both on and off screen.

"On the surface, things look a little better," spokesman John White said. "But when you come from zero, one looks better."

NBC executives said the network has made progress.

"I imagine at any time there might be some groups that will feel unrepresented," said Scott Sassa, NBC West Coast president. "It's going to be a fact of life on an ongoing basis, no matter how far we move the ball in terms of diversity."

David Alan Grier landed the lead role in NBC's "Dag," playing a Secret Service agent assigned to guard the first lady as punishment for diving in the wrong direction during a failed assassination attempt. Wendell Pierce plays Steven Weber's best friend in "The Steven Weber Show."

CBS' new comedy "Welcome to New York" has actor Rocky Carroll playing an anchorman. Mykelti Williamson is one of the two lead actors in CBS' remake of "The Fugitive." Black actors are also featured in "The District," a drama about a Washington police commissioner.

Fox has included minorities in ensemble casts: two of the eight leads in "The Street," including a financial firm's manager; two of five in "Fearsum"; and two of eight in David E. Kelley's new "Boston Public."

However, CBS was criticized by the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, which said the broadcast networks in general did a poor job in casting Latinos.

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