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Casting director Leah Daniels Butler sees changes in Hollywood’s diversity

Casting director Leah Daniels Butler — whose brother is the famed producer and director Lee Daniels — says a more inclusive Hollywood is coming.

“People are just tired of not seeing themselves reflected on television, or not being recognized for their accomplishments, or not being included, or not having a seat at the table for certain things,” she told Page Six via phone on Tuesday. “And that’s not just African-Americans. That’s everybody. Just hearing these conversations over and over again, ‘Why don’t I see Asian people on television?’ or ‘Why don’t I see as many African-Americans on television than I do a certain group of people?’ or ‘Why aren’t there actors with disabilities on television?’ When I go out into the real world, I see that all over. I see people who are deaf. I see people who are blind. I see people that are in wheelchairs.'”

Butler said evidence of a change was present during the speeches at Sunday’s Academy Awards. “Everybody is really talking about what needs to change and how they can make a difference,” she said. “And I’m just glad the conversations are happening … I think now the glass ceiling is broken and people are not going to stand for certain things anymore, whether it’s pay equality, whether its gender equality, whatever the case may be. The lid is blown off the top.”

Butler previously sat on the board of directors for the Casting Society of America and worked on the organization’s diversity committee. She was honored for her work bridging diversity gaps at the GRIOT Gala Oscar Night After Party on March 4.

Leah Daniels Butler and husband Henry Butler attend The GRIOT Gala Oscar Night After Party.Getty Images

“You realize, within our own community, it’s not as diverse in terms of, like, if there’s a part written for an actor that’s supposed to be in a wheelchair, for instance,” she said. “… Sometimes they’ll hire actors who are not wheelchair users when there are actors [in wheelchairs] who could easily fulfill that role. So that’s kind of where the conversation started. Just how, as casting directors, we could involve actors who had any sort of adversity, whether it was gender bias or color bias or disability bias … And then I realized within myself what I could be doing differently because … I have to start the conversation in order for it to be a trickle-down effect.'”

Daniels — who worked with her brother Lee on “The Butler” and “Precious” — is currently casting for the upcoming pilot season, and is finding the work to be “more challenging” as more projects are getting made and different types of people are being shown on screen.

“You have to be more broad in your thinking, which is creating more opportunities for everybody,” she said.

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