I’m used to television executives seeking safety and comfort in blandness. Starz has, since the very beginning, been the opposite.

Neil Gaiman, Author, “American Gods”

Starz has always endorsed our bold content and the vision we had behind it.

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Executive Producer/Actor, “Power”

Diversity Fuels Bold Stories

Starz has bucked television industry trends by making shows that other networks would shy from. The results have been INSPIRING.

By Stephanie Prange

A constellation of distinct and diverse voices is shining at Starz.

They are unique talents, sometimes unproven. They showcase communities traditionally underrepresented on television: female, Latinx, LGBTQ+, black. They are challenging Hollywood’s conventional ideas about who and what a TV story should be about and who the storytellers can and should be.

Showrunners including “Power’s” Courtney A. Kemp, “Vida’s” Tanya Saracho and “Now Apocalypse’s” Gregg Araki are delivering bold, powerful shows, taking risks and pushing limits.
And Starz wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m used to television executives seeking safety and comfort in blandness. Starz has, since the very beginning, been the opposite,” says author Neil Gaiman, whose novel “American Gods” inspired the Starz series of the same name.

“They’ve always pushed towards places that were edgy, awkward and uncomfortable,” says Gaiman, an executive producer on the show. “They knew they had a prickly and even a divisive book, and they had no intention of letting it become a smooth and comfortable television series.”

Gaiman’s words are echoed by other writer-producers on the network.

Araki, executive producer, writer and director of “Now Apocalypse,” says, “My co-writer Karley [Sciortino] and I wanted to make the sexiest, craziest show on TV, [a show] that was basically like no other show, and Starz was like, ‘Bring it on.’ They were amazingly supportive with us and really never said no, so the show is really just kind of our imagination unleashed and released and uncensored.” The show’s neon-bright palette belies the precarious lives of its millennial characters in present-day L.A.

“It’s just very unapologetic,” says Araki, “and it’s not in any way sort of diluted or compromised. The creative freedom that they’ve allowed us has been unparalleled for me in my 30 years of making movies and working in TV.”

“Power” creator and showrunner Kemp had pitched the series, about an African American nightclub owner keeping the secret that he’s one of the biggest drug dealers in New York, to other networks.

“They didn’t see the potential in the show,” says Kemp, “but Starz did.” The drama will soon enter its sixth season.

“Starz has always endorsed our bold content and the vision we had behind it,” says Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, who played a rival dealer on the show and is an executive producer. “Since day one, ‘Power’ has helped break barriers and resonate across the Starz audience. And five years later, we have a show that rings true to real life because of the support and creative freedom we receive.”

That support begins in the executive ranks. Saracho, creator and showrunner of “Vida,” credits the network with letting her tell an authentic story about two Mexican-American sisters who return to their East Los Angeles neighborhood after the death of their mother and uncover secrets. It features an all-Latinx writing staff and all-female directors.

“We’ve never, as female Latinx in television, really gotten a chance to tell complicated, female-centered, millennial stories,” says Saracho. “It’s [happened] since we’re at Starz. No one else would have greenlit this — and not just greenlit this, they sought it out.”

Mishel Prada, who plays one of the sisters, praises the depth of the Latinx and queer characters in the show.

“If all you see on the screen is drugs and gangs and cartels and even cheap labor, you’re not going to empathize with these people,” she says. “We’re getting to breathe full life into these fully fleshed-out characters.”

People of color are often front and center in Starz shows. In “Vida,” it’s Latinx in Los Angeles; in “Power,” it’s the black community in New York. Steve James, the acclaimed director of documentary “Hoop Dreams,” examined the experience of black and brown students in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park through the nonfiction series “America to Me.”

Even “American Gods,” with its trippy collection of new and old deities competing for dominance all over the country, follows a black ex-convict who discovers their hidden world.

“These are characters who have not had a voice in popular media in the past,” Gaiman says. “Giving them a voice and giving them presence is important in so many ways… We know that we are not alone, that we are human, too, when we see people like us.”

Many of the shows on Starz also feature LGBTQ+ characters and storylines. “As a member of that community, I think that representation is super important,” Araki says.

Saracho, too, is a member of that community. She notes the “heart” of “Vida” is a lesbian woman.

“Brown queers, Latinx queers have historically not taken up any space in the landscape,” says Saracho. “When we aired the first season, people were reacting like, ‘I have never seen myself represented on the screen’ — masculine-of-center butch, or questioning-femme, however they saw themselves.”

We’ve never, as female Latinx in television, really gotten a chance to tell complicated, female- centered millennial stories. It’s [happened] since we’re at Starz. No one else would have greenlit this – and not just greenlit this, they sought
it out.

Tanya Saracho Creator/Executive Producer, “Vida”

“Vida” recently won a GLAAD Award for outstanding comedy series.

Representation is important, but diversity is also about what kind of personalities are onscreen. Starz presents a strong female voice in its period dramas, including “The Spanish Princess,” set around the turn of the 16th century, and the time-jumping hit “Outlander,” whose action shifts between the 18th and mid-20th centuries.

Saracho’s own show is absolutely contemporary, but she is a superfan of those costume dramas.

“Because it’s a female at the center, unapologetically,” she says. “But not just in a positive light — in a complicated way. They have complex female characters, and that’s why my show fits [with them]. Because these girls that I’m writing, they’re not nice all the time, but they’re real. They’re authentic.”

These series span genres and styles, from gritty reality to romantic fantasy, but they let writers stretch.

Says Gaiman of Starz: “They support vision. They support creators. And they are brave.”