Jesse Williams speaks on Hollywood Diversity, Norman Lear at the HRTS Gala

„We’re making incredible strides,” „Grey’s Anatomy” star Jesse Williams told Thursday night’s crowd at the HRTS Foundation Gala at the Beverly Hilton.

In a 15-minute Q&A with Odetta Watkins, president of the Hollywood Radio and Television Society and president of drama series at Amazon MGM Studios, Williams spoke about the progress she sees on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in Hollywood. Annual fundraiser. Williams, who was nominated for a Tony Award in 2022 for „Take Me Out,” was honored by HRTS for his work as an actor, director, producer and activist.

„It’s allowed new voices — the expansion of the barrier,” Williams told Watkins, adding that creators from underrepresented backgrounds have gained authority and authorship of their stories. „We’re not tokenized,” he said. He cautioned the industry and actors, writers and directors of color to remember that this is not a marathon. „We don’t want to put too much pressure on [on creatives] We have to make up for lost time,” he said. „True freedom is the ability to be ordinary.”

Williams described his unusual career path, which included early work as an activist and high school teacher. As he neared 30, he set his sights on acting, although he also considered law school.

Williams also spoke about working with the legendary Norman Lear on the 2016 Epics documentary series “America Divided” about political, social and racial wrongs in contemporary American culture. Williams recalls conversations with the prolific producer, who died Dec. 5 at age 101, about the profound influence TV and movies have had on society.

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With „All in the Family” and other groundbreaking series, Lear „knocked on a cross of truth — dealing with pain through laughter was the whole story of his shows,” Williams said.

Williams learned an important lesson from Lear for his work as a producer. „Never do it for them,” Williams recalled of Lear being too compromising with himself, especially when trying to make a project appeal to a wider audience. „Follow your vision. Don’t sever your vision too much for someone who doesn’t know,” Williams said.

The HRTS event, hosted by comedian Matt Friend, included a salute to the 2023 HRTS Fellows Program, mentoring and networking sessions for 15 participants pursuing careers in entertainment.

(Pictured: HRTS President Odetta Watkins and Jesse Williams)

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