"Girls" Gets Its First Black Woman

“I will be the first black woman to be on "Girls," so that’s exciting for me.”
Publish date:
September 18, 2013
race, Clutch, lena dunham, HBO Girls

In a recent interview with "Ebony", Danielle Brooks, who stars as Taystee on Netflix’s "Orange Is The New Black", revealed that she’s recently been cast on HBO’s "Girls".

“I just shot an episode of "Girls" for HBO,” Brooks told "Ebony" when asked about what’s next for her. “I will be the first black woman to be on "Girls," so that’s exciting for me.”

As some may recall, "Girls" came under fire for it’s lack of “diversity” even though the show is about 20-somethings coming of age in New York City. During an interview with NPR, Lena Dunham defended her decision as to why the cast wasn’t diverse:

I take that criticism very seriously. … This show isn’t supposed to feel exclusionary. It’s supposed to feel honest, and it’s supposed to feel true to many aspects of my experience. But for me to ignore that criticism and not to take it in would really go against my beliefs and my education in so many things. And I think the liberal-arts student in me really wants to engage in a dialogue about it, but as I learn about engaging with the media, I realize it’s not the same as sitting in a seminar talking things through at Oberlin. Every quote is sort of used and misused and placed and misplaced, and I really wanted to make sure I spoke sensitively to this issue.

I wrote the first season primarily by myself, and I co-wrote a few episodes. But I am a half-Jew, half-WASP, and I wrote two Jews and two WASPs. Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting. If I had one of the four girls, if, for example, she was African-American, I feel like — not that the experience of an African-American girl and a white girl are drastically different, but there has to be specificity to that experience [that] I wasn’t able to speak to. I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, ‘I hear this and I want to respond to it.’ And this is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can’t speak to accurately.

Although Dunham didn’t add any black woman characters after the backlash, Donald Glover was added to the cast as her character’s love interest. I will be honest and say I was a little perturbed after watching the first season of "Girls", but when I thought about it, if I were to write a television show about my circle of friends, it probably wouldn’t have any white women in it either. It would be more like "Girlfriends", and not even close to gentrification.

Brooks didn’t give any other details about her role on "Girls", so it’ll be interesting to see how her character is written. Dunham previously said she wasn’t able to speak to that aspect of life so may she buckled under the pressure of diversifying the cast? Since Brooks’ character on "Orange Is The New Black" was promoted to a recurring role, one has to wonder if the "Girls" role is just a “walk on” for one episode. I guess we’ll all be speculating until the new season airs in January 2014. Personally, I’m looking forward to season 3, with or without a black character.

What do you think about the addition of a black character on "Girls"?

Reprinted with permission from Clutch.