Josh Thomas Apologises For His “Dumb & Gross” Comments On Racial Diversity At A Panel In 2016

Please Like Me creator Josh Thomas has apologised for his 2016 comments on hiring actors from diverse racial backgrounds, saying his perspective at a 2016 panel discussion was “illogical, insensitive” and “gross.”

“I’m super ashamed of the comments I made,” Thomas said. “And I would like to apologise.”

Footage of the Writer’s Room event at Sydney Opera House shows Thomas muse about the casting process for Please Like Me, including his approach to non-white actors.

“The other thing about making a television show that I didn’t know about, that I found quite confronting, is that because you have to pick every person in the show, it’s like, ‘Josh, what do you want the 7/11 worker to look like?’” he said.

“And it’s like, ‘Um. Do you make them Indian? Or is that offensive?’ Or then if you make them white – is that a bit like you’re lying, really.”

When co-panelist Dan Harmon, creator of Community and Rick and Morty, was asked for his perspective on diverse hiring practices, Thomas interjected, saying, “It’s easier in the States.”

“Finding people who have been given the same opportunities, where they then get to go and be great at acting, is really hard,” Thomas said.

“Where none of the other shows are hiring people who aren’t white, finding an experienced actor who isn’t white is really hard.

“So then you find yourself in a situation like, ‘We want to be be more diverse, but this person is doesn’t have as much experience as this person.’ And then it’s hard to know what to do, because you don’t want to be favouring people and putting them on, when they’re not [up to] the job.”

Harmon cut back in, saying it’s incumbent on showrunners to “look so hard you can sleep like a baby,” and outlined the overlapping societal factors – class and access to elite education, among them – which work to keep TV writing staff predominantly straight, white, and male.

“We sense this syndrome where television’s being written by rich white people, and then everyone’s getting the signal that if you are a different colour, then you’re not supposed to write television,” Harmon said.

“All you can do is stand your station, and be proactive within your station,” he added. “If you’re a showrunner, you have a responsibility, in my opinion.”

The discussion was resurfaced on Twitter by actor and writer Moreblessing Maturure, who said Thomas’ comments was “infamous” in writing rooms and masterclasses.

“The short hand is “Don’t be The Josh™️ of the room,” she added.

The clip ignited new discussions about diversity in Australian TV, with some commenters noting that Thomas only referred to Indian actors in their capacity to play convenience store clerks.

Others commenters teased out an apparent contradiction: while Thomas appeared skeptical of hiring actors from racially diverse backgrounds who didn’t have lengthy CVs, some of Please Like Me‘s white cast members had few acting credits to their name either.

Briggs, who now lists a stack of writing credits on his resume, also called for diverse talent to be given a shot.

Matt Okine, who wrote and stars in The Other Guy, provided a different perspective, saying he faced “similar problems” making the show.

Thomas addressed the discussion on Tuesday morning, telling social media followers he apologised for his past statements.

“Authentic diversity in casting (and behind the scenes) is something that’s super important to me, and that has been important to me for a long time,” he wrote.

“When making Please Like Me I always went into the casting process with it as a top priority and then fell short, many times… the answers I offered in this clip are in no way constructive or correct.

“I am committed to doing better.”

You can read his statement below.