How Colorblind Casting Led To This New TV Show Being Surprisingly More Diverse

"I was the only woman of color testing for it."

One new TV series this fall could have looked a whole lot different than it does today. The female lead of NBC's I Feel Bad was not written with a woman of color in mind but, once Sarayu Blue auditioned, the Indian-American actress snagged the gig — and, in that moment, changed the DNA of the show.

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Blue recently told Glamour that before booking this job — from creator Aseem Batra and executive producer Amy Poehler — she almost quit acting. In fact, Blue had decided that, despite some TV roles such Monday Mornings and No Tomorrow, and a memorable part in 2018's Blockers, this pilot season might just be her last. That is, until I Feel Bad came along.

"I was the only woman of color testing for it," Blue told the magazine. "It was one of those experiences where you go, 'Oh, it's either going to go that way or this way."

Sarayu Blue in an episodic photo of NBC's "I Feel Bad."
Credit: Evans Vestal Ward / NBC

Blue felt that she nailed the first audition. That was confirmed when they called her back to audition for the studio, the network, and finally a read with actor Paul Adelstein, who plays the male lead. With Blue being the lone actress of color, her feeling was that she was going for "the concept of me doing the role."

Upon getting the role, Blue witnessed the effects that her casting had on the project. The fictional family Blue was now a part of would have a "cultural specificity" that would reflect the fact that she, as an actress, is of an Indian-American background: casting Indian parents and biracial children, as Adelstein is White.

As Glamour points out, this is an example of colorblind casting. That term, as defined by TVTropes.org, is "where characters for a performed work (theater, TV, film) are cast without regard to race, gender, age, etc." — just like what happened with Blue on I Feel Bad. By not having a predetermined preference, those casting are able to see how any talented individual can play a part.

Sarayu Blue in an episodic photo of NBC's "I Feel Bad."
Credit: Evans Vestal Ward / NBC

"In my experience, if it wasn't written specifically for a woman of color — and even more specifically, Indian — a lead role wasn't going my way," Blue explained. "It just wasn't on the table. It wasn't an option. There are plenty of lead roles that I think lots of women of color are fantastic for, but more often than not they're creating that work for themselves. That's what I've seen."

This rings true when looking at what Mindy Kaling has done for herself, creating shows such as The Mindy Project, which features an Indian-American woman as the lead. The same goes for Aziz Ansari and Master of None. Depictions of characters of Indian background have largely been relegated to stereotypes — just look at the ever-problematic Apu Nahasapeemapetilon of The Simpsons. Not all shows can be like the now-over Quantico, which starred Indian actress Priyanka Chopra.

By going out for a role that wasn't intended for her but one that she was perfect for, Blue has changed the TV landscape — a big deal even if it just moves the dial a little.

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