Home Posts Mike Gauyo, The Creator Of 'Insecure,' Is On A Mission To Increase The Number Of Black Voices On Television.
Mike Gauyo, The Creator Of 'Insecure,' Is On A Mission To Increase The Number Of Black Voices On Television.
Hollywood

Mike Gauyo, The Creator Of 'Insecure,' Is On A Mission To Increase The Number Of Black Voices On Television.


It's easy to see how white Hollywood's TV writers' rooms are: according to a Color of Change report from 2017, only 4.8% of 3,817 writers on 234 TV shows were Black, with two-thirds of those shows having no Black writers at all.

In 2020, “Watchmen” writer Cord Jefferson told The Washington Post that, despite increased conversations about diversity and hiring people of color, marginalized voices were still overlooked in writers’ rooms. “It feels like you’re diversity decoration a little bit, rather than a valuable member of the team,” he said.

Mike Gauyo is out to change that as much as he can.

The Los Angeles-based writer, who has worked on shows such as "Insecure" and "Ginny & Georgia," told Stardia that as the number of TV staff writer positions shrinks, Black writers have less access.

“It is incredibly difficult to get into a writer’s room, especially if you are a writer of color,” Gauyo explained. “If you are not referred, if you don’t already know the showrunner or some of the writers on the show, if you don’t have an agent or a manager who got you in, if you don’t come through a fellowship that allocated money towards that room or that show in order for you to be in there as a ‘di

To address this, Gauyo collaborated with his creative agency, Culture Creative, and his management agency, Writ Large, to launch The Black Boy Writes/Black Girl Writes Mentorship Initiative, a yearlong program that connects new and aspiring writers to writers and showrunners such as Amy Aniobi of “Insecure,” Kay Oyegun of “This Is Us,” and Kemp Power of “This Is Us.”

Gauyo, who was born in Haiti and raised in Boston, said making solid connections in the industry is how he was able to secure a spot in his first writers’ room. He said his parents groomed him to be a doctor, so he didn't begin pursuing a career in TV until after he left college. The first few years, however, he worked in banking. When he was laid off, he decided to go back to school and study.

“It’s always been a hobby of mine,” he explained, “so I went back to school for theater, concentration in creative writing, intending to become a playwright, move to New York, live that bohemian starving-artist lifestyle, but then I took this production internship at school and realized, oh, TV’s where it’s at.”

All of these white people have so many networks; we as people of color should be able to do the same.

Gauyo, Mike

Gauyo graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 2012 and began his career in reality television as a production assistant on “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” He relocated to Los Angeles in 2013 and realized that if he wanted to move from reality to scripted, he needed to be intentional about his networking.

His networking landed him a meeting with Issa Rae, who gave him his first writing opportunity on the podcast "Fruit" for two seasons. At the time, TV writer and producer Ben Cory Jones had become Gauyo's mentor and recommended him to "Claws" showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois, where he got a job as a writers' production assistant, then a writer's assistant.

“My path in writing has very much come from people who have been stewards of my career, people who have helped me on my way,” Gauyo said, adding, “That’s what I intend to do with my mentorship program, is create access for Black writers and a sustainable pathway for them to gain visibility but also success.”

“If it hadn’t been for Issa, Ben Cory Jones, or Janine Sherman Barrois, I wouldn’t be on the path that I’m on now,” he continued, “so that’s why I feel like it was so important to be able to pay it forward and bring up anyone else that I can in the industry to just have a place so that they can take up space.”

He cited a McKinsey & Company report from March, which found that the inclusivity gap costs Hollywood $10 billion per year, and that Black-led projects, in particular, have been undervalued and underfunded despite clear evidence that they outperform other projects in terms of return on investment.

Nonetheless, Hollywood ignores the need for these stories.

“That’s because they aren’t seeing us,” Gauyo explained. “How can I play my small part in creating some sense of visibility and amplifying up-and-coming Black voices in order for them to be seen, heard, and working?”

“There are so many untold Black stories to tell; we are not monolithic; we live diverse lives and experiences, and all stories deserve to take up space, to have an audience, and to be heard.”

He cited Rae and Lena Waithe as examples of people who have inspired others as they have advanced in their careers.

Publicity

“That’s what it’s about, and when you think about it, man, all these white people have so many networks. So many,” he lamented. “Hollywood is built on nepotism. It’s built on who you know, how you know them, and what they can do for you. Not to say they aren’t talented and deserving, but they have a network, and we as people of color should be able to do the same.”

“And that’s really what it’s all about,” he continued, “building a network of people and helping pull each other up.... I want to pull people up to stand beside me, but I also want to pull people up to propel them past me.”

People approached Gauyo for advice, and he decided to formalize the process in order to have a greater impact.

Eleven mentees were chosen for the inaugural class of Black Boy Writes, Black Girl Writes, who were referred by others in the TV writing industry and had to submit applications and participate in interviews. This year's mentees are Jarrell Brown, Joshua L. Myers, Blake Williams, Lovingkindness, Kai Grayson, Tiffany Beacham, and K.

Gauyo criticized some of the diversity and inclusion programs he's seen in Hollywood that lack the "follow-up care" required for longevity, saying that the difference with this program is that they were very intentional about follow-up steps once the program is completed.

“I like to call my program a sustainable pathway because we’re working on their material and preparing them for fellowships and staffing. We’re putting them in touch with my management firm and my agency, who will read them and decide whether or not they want to bring them into a meeting and represent them,” he explained.

When they are staffed, the mentees will be represented by Gauyo's lawyer, Marcie Cleary, in addition to being considered for representation by Culture Creative and Writ Large.

Gauyo, who is just getting started in his own career, said it's all about paving the way for more diverse Black people to tell their stories and creating a more equitable landscape for both writers and viewers. Though this is his first class of mentees, Gauyo hopes to do it annually.

“I hope it runs as long as I am alive and beyond,” he said. “I want it to have a foothold in the industry. I want it to be something that is looked at as kids coming out of college, ‘Oh, I want to get into that mentorship program.’ Kids who are writers coming up who are in high school, ‘Oh, once I graduate college and once I’m out there and once I’m doing my thing, I want to look into this public relations.”

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