Monday, December 05, 2011

The year of mixed-race TV stars

Half of the posts I've written so far this year are lists of multiracial actors and actresses on TV shows. But four decades before any of those shows hit the airwaves, one mixed actress and one mixed actor made history in 1966.

The first mixed-race person to star in a TV show was Marlo Thomas, who played the title role in the series That Girl, which first aired on September 8, 1966 on ABC. (1966 is pretty early, I assume I'm correct in saying she was the first, but correct me if you know an earlier person).

She is mixed Arab and European. Her dad was the son of Christian immigrants from Lebanon (I mention they were Christian because everybody assumes all Arabs are Muslim, and I love to challenge stereotypes), and her mom was Italian-American.
That's Marlo with her dad, and her with the whole family (she's the oldest kid).

After the debut of That Girl, ABC premiered a show with a mixed-race male in one of the lead roles—on the very next day after That Girl debuted. As though they wanted to prevent anyone from saying they're sexist against mixed guys.

That series was The Green Hornet on September 9, 1966. One of the main characters was played by Bruce Lee. He wasn't the main star, but decades later the DVD release said he was (above), as if ABC regretted not giving the lead to a mixed actor, like they did to a mixed actress.

Most people have heard of him, but very few know he was mixed race. His dad was Chinese and his mom was biracial Chinese/German.
In both photos, he's in the middle and his biracial mother is on the left.

As if they were addicted to being pioneers, Marlo and Bruce went further and became the first mixed woman and man on the cover of the biggest TV magazine, in the same year their two programs premiered.

It's like the TV industry was proclaiming the arrival of multiracials.

(Correct me if you know an earlier mixed person who was on TV Guide's cover)


Anonymous said...

Arabs are and were considered Caucasian so I wouldn't consider Marlo mixed-race but multi ethnic. Her parent's didn't break any miscegenation laws. Same goes for some Hispanics. I love Dolores Del Rio, Maria Montez, Gilbert Roland but they could date/marry "whites" because they were European Latinos not of obvious indigenous, black, or Asian backgrounds.

The more involved I am with Hollywood, I realize how backwards it is and with my research, I think it's worse for Asians and even Latinos but obviously Latinos are more powerful than Asians. The black community does have a lot of clout.

Eurasian actors in HOllywood unfortunately have to try to make themselves appear more white as first choice and Latino as second choice in order to get more working opportunities. Or at least quickly mix it up in the beginning otherwise one can be typecast even as an extra.

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize Bruce Lee was part German.

Anonymous said...

Father.... Danny Thomas was born on January 6, 1912, in Deerfield, Michigan
Mother.....Rose Marie Thomas (Cassaniti) born March 6, 1914 Detroit, MIchigan
Marlo Thomas was born on November 21, 1937 in Detroit, Michigan

She had mixed race Grandparents, but She, her Father, and her Mother are americans