Jay Laga’aia criticises Home & Away’s lack of diversity

Actor Jay Laga'aia claims he lost his Home & Away role "because they couldn't write two ethnics that weren't together."

Minor Spoilers: The Seven Network has denied claims by New Zealand-born actor Jay Laga’aia that he lost his job on Home & Away “because they couldn’t write two ethnics that weren’t together”.

Laga’aia reacted to Firass Dirani’s calls for more cultural diversity on Australian TV,
via Twitter yesterday, writing: “Hats off to you Firass Dirani for a call to stop commercial network producers casting only white actors. Only on Australian screens. Shame!”

“As someone who lost his job on H&A because they couldn’t write two ethnics that weren’t together, I’d like a chance to ply my trade freely.”

“I think commercial TV should take a leaf out of children’s TV in this country. We are a rainbow nation in kids TV. No tokens here.”

A spokeswoman confirmed his character as Reverend Elijah Johnson will depart screens in April but denied the allegation.

‘”He finished his role in the series because the storyline around his character reached a natural conclusion,” she told the Daily Telegraph.

This week Firass Dirani urged producers to cast Dramas with more cultural diversity.

“Hopefully the networks start writing shows that cater for different actors and different cultural backgrounds,” he said.

18 Responses

  1. Criticising the commercial TV networks’ drama output is fair enough, but nothing new. Isn’t it about time someone started looking at what SBS actually produces these days? What has their contribution been to ethnic diversity in drama over the past few years? By any measure, the ABC has done far better with The Straits, Crownies, The Slap. The quality has been variable, but they’ve all featured an ethnically diverse Australia.

  2. I am all for much, much better diversity, but this is so rich coming from a man who has worked pretty consistently on Australian TV.

    I wonder if his axing from H&A might have anything to do with the fact that Jay is not such a great actor, and not strong enough against someone like Ada Nicodemou?

  3. Well done Jay for taking a stand. I think its fair to say that Australian tv should at least somewhat reflect Australia’s population and demographics. The bottom line is that they dont even get close. Put it this way, if you pick a random bunch of 20 people in Australia, you can bet your bottom dollar that at least a couple of them will not be Anglo-Saxon. So that should be reflected in a show which has 20 odd characters with a speaking role. Otherwise, you’re showing a complete distortion.

    Its not a matter of ”yeah but they always cut off characters”. Its a matter of it not being right that H&A are unwilling to have two Non-Anglo characters in its show (if that is true). And if it is true, then it is borderline bigotry.

  4. Oh, and didn’t he play a minister or priest or something? Not a hugely useful character when it comes to writing a show that’s fueled by romance. It’s a wonder he lasted as long as he did.

  5. I agree that our local dramas particularly on commercial TV could be a lot more diverse. But the reality also is that actors get written out of soaps all the time when producers feel the character has ‘run its course’… it doesn’t have to have anything to do with the colour of one’s skin. Sometimes characters have a limited life-span. I’m sure plenty of ‘white’ actors have suffered similar circumstances from shows like this.

  6. @MunchoTB

    A lot of people unfortunately, even people in my household -__-

    When it’s on … man if people are going to simply point at him being a bad actor then they are forgetting a majority of the cast who are also laughable.

  7. Who actually watches these boring whitebread soaps? I avoid Australian shows like Home and Away and Neighbours like the plague. Boring storylines, ham acting and woeful writing.

    Even sitting through an episode of Rush or Underbelly is a rather tedious experience.

  8. There are two issues here. The first is ethnic diversity on Australian TV, and in this Jay Laga’aia is absolutely right. Ethnic minorities are under-represented, and shamefully so in the case of the whiter than white soaps. The people responsible for this are the network executives and producers, who truly believe that Australians are essentially racist and don’t want too many brown or asian faces on screen. They constantly step on writers attempts to introduce greater diversity. If anything, they’re more narrow-minded now than they were thirty years ago.

    Secondly, there’s the problem of casting, and the unfortunate truth is it’s much harder to cast certain ethnic minorities. Among some minorities (e.g. middle eastern/muslim) there are cultural reasons why the pool is limited. Elsewhere, you’re just stuck with the fact that the actors available are simply not very good. Just look at The Straits – a well-intentioned attempt to broaden ethnic horizons, but the acting is way below par. And, sorry to say it, but Jay Laga-aia is a lump of wood on screen. I wouldn’t scream too loudly if I were him.

  9. I think there is a case for some further diversity in Australian television, but the argument does not need to be hijacked by the rather serving complaints of Mr Laga’aia. The man was employed by “Home and Away” for a number of years, a position many Caucasian actors would kill to find themselves in. As frequently with other characters on that show, the time had no doubt come for the stories to move on. Mr Laga’aia is one of the weakest performers in the show and I suspect his being let go is much more to do with the lack of popularity of his character than any form of racism.

  10. He was the shows worst actor and lasted way too long on the show IMO. I don’t think he comes across well here, he had his turn now he’s chucking a tantie that it’s over. I strongly support the cause for more diversity especially for gay characters in H&A. but I think he’s only doing it harm, if he was a litmus test for an ethnic character.

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