Australian comedian Josh Thomas has publicly apologised for comments he made about hiring non-white actors during a 2016 panel discussion, after a clip of the discussion was shared widely on social media yesterday.
The backlash was sparked after Please Like Me star Thomas had posted an image of Coon cheese on Twitter, arguing that the term was “hate speech” and advocating for a name change to the product.
But as his followers debated the topic, one reply gained traction: Activist, actor and writer Moreblessing Maturure posted a YouTube link to a 2016 panel discussion on writer’s rooms Thomas had participated in alongside fellow writer/actors Dan Harmon, Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor.
“Has anyone told Josh Thomas that 44:00 onwards of this The Writer’s Room is infamous in many-a rooms/masterclasses? The shorthand is ‘Don’t be The Josh of the room,'” they wrote.
The clip in question sees Thomas, who was the creator, writer, star and occasional director of his cult hit series Please Like Me, discussing difficulties in casting actors from diverse backgrounds.
Warning that “this is going to sound racist,” Thomas said, “most of the immigrants in Australia have come pretty recently, and generally, first or second-generation immigrants don’t want to be actors. They have real jobs.
“The other thing I didn’t know about making a TV show that I found quite confronting is you have to pick every person. ‘Josh, what do you want the 7-11 worker to look like?’ Do you make them Indian, or is that offensive? Or if you make them white, is it a bit like you’re lying, really? What do you do?”
“But also, it’s taking a job away from an Indian actor if you don’t,” Pacquola said.
“What answer is not offensive?” Thomas pondered, prompting an interjection from McGregor acknowledging the all-white panel: “We’re probably not going to come to the answer with this panel.”