In Brazil, telenovelas and soap operas dominate pop culture. But more times than not, when you see a Black person on screen, they’re playing a maid, a chauffeur, or busboy. And they’re given few, if any, lines.
As head writer for Narrativas Negras (Black Narratives), an all-Black writers room and diversity and inclusion consultancy group within ViacomCBS International Studios (VIS), it’s my hope that we’ll start a conversation around the importance of diversity in Brazilian entertainment. I want to help to combat the lack of representation of Black culture on and offscreen, by developing and producing representative and inclusive content in a variety of genres across film and TV.
We’re a writers’ room on paper, but I like to refer to us as an “idea engine.” We come up with the concept, and VIS takes that concept into further development and production. The project is part of VIS’ commitment to devoting 25 percent of its yearly Latin American budget to the creation and development of “Black, indigenous and person of color” (BIPOC) content.
When VIS tasked me with building the team, the most important factor for me was making sure that we were all different. We’re diverse in skin tone, upbringing, and the type of writing we do. (Though, like many Black Brazilian writers, the six of us are used to being the only Black person in mostly white writers’ rooms.) They’re fantastic, hardworking, and brilliant writers who all bring something different to the room. Renata Diniz is an actress, Eliana Alves Cruz writes novels, and Estevão Ribeiro creates comic books. It makes the stories we come up with richer and fresher.