Sassy, attitude, aggressive and angry are terms often associated with Black Women on TV. In the case of Lanie Parish, best friend of Det. Kate Beckett, we are able to see there is more to the character than sassy.
Lanie Parish, as written by Andrew Marlowe-creator of Castle, is a well-spoken, intelligent, caring woman on ABC’s hit dramedy. The role was not written for a woman of color but it is well played and performed by Tamala Jones. The chemistry of the actors on Castle are as important to the tv series as the written scripts. That in itself accounts for the ginormous fan following and steady ratings of the series. Tamala has successfully placed her mark on the role making it inconceivable for loyal fans to watch an episode without her appearing at a crime scene or on a girl’s night out with her BFF – Detetective Kate Beckett. Tamala’s chemistry with Stana Katic is evident as is her chemistry with the entire cast and crew of the series.
It is to the delight of this blogger that the writers of Castle have not fallen into the black woman stereotype trap of writing the role of Lanie Parish M.E. as an irreverent, unorthodox and street laced character. Lanie Parish is a well educated, well respected, professional medical examiner on Castle. Her appearance and presence on Castle is one of the main reasons I faithfully watch the series and support the creator and his writing staff. In a day where Black women continue to struggle for major roles on network TV that depict the character with skill, intelligence and leadership, Castle never fails to deliver. As a mother of three beautiful gifted, talented, intelligent African American daughters, it is important to me to support TV shows that display diversity in their casting and intelligence in their characters who are people of color. It is worth noting that Castle is not in the majority when it comes to the portrayal of black women on TV.
In an article written by Michael Arceaunex for The Root, Arceneaux shared the words of writer Allison Samuels’ Newsweek piece when she spoke with TV’s first black leading lady Diahann Carroll. She spoke with pioneering actress Diahann Carroll, who told her, “What I see now on television for the most part is a disgrace, as far as how we’re depicted.” Another pioneer, Phylicia Rashad, recalled a conversation with an NBC executive after The Cosby Show went off the air. Rashad quipped, “He said it was going to get much worse before it got better in terms of diversity. He was right.”
What is the next step for network TV? Is it conceivable and marketable that the character Lanie Parish could grow to carry a show like Body of Proof? Yes, it is conceivable! What is inconceivable in 2012 is that we are still asking the question! The Body of Proof character is a medical examiner/doctor who works with the police to solve crimes. Sound familiar? The role of Lanie Parish is critical to the success of Det. Beckett and her team. She is consistently asked how did the victim die? Dr. Parish’ response is always the critical piece of information that will make or break the case. Her response and support to the lead detective often points Beckett in the right direction for her investigation. Yet, the character of Lanie Parish appears to be without hope for a spinoff series or increased screen time unless the fans rally on her behalf.
Four years ago it was just a story line on the tv series “24″ that a black man could lead one of the world’s leading nations. Today that story line is a part of history. What or who will be the turning point for network TV? Will the market support a character like Lanie Parish in a lead role? How long do we need to wait before our country has as many Shonda Rhimes as we do Andrew Marlowe’s? Until those question along with many others are answered, we salute Tamala Jones and throw tons of support her way as she marches forward in her film career and journey on network TV with Castle. She is so much more than sass.
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