I'm watching re-runs of Twilight Zone and I was wondering why most of the cast the predominantly white?

Rod Serling liked to write episodes about social issues, so it's surprising that Twilight Zone didn't feature more non white actors. The only episodes I found that featured non white actors were I Am the Night—Color Me Black with Ivan Dixon and The Encounter with George Takei.

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    I imagine it's most likely because it was the late fifties/early sixties, and diverse casts like Star Trek's were the exception back then, rather than the rule. – F1Krazy Oct 12 '18 at 15:05
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    The past was a different place - they had funny ideas back there. It was 1967 before a non-white actor had sufficient clout as a character to even insist "They call me Mr. Tibbs!" – Tetsujin Oct 12 '18 at 15:39
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    To clarify the above comment - Poitier was already a multi-award-winning actor by 1967, but though he was a magnificent power on-screen, his characters generally held little or no authority. He won his first Oscar for portraying an itinerant worker, not 'a president'. – Tetsujin Oct 12 '18 at 15:50
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    They could only draw from the available pool of actors. That pool was mostly white because that was who was getting cast on all the other shows in Hollywood at the time, probably because that's what studio execs of the day thought audiences expected to see. – Anthony X Oct 13 '18 at 3:59
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    IIRC, there was also the episode "The Big Tall Wish", about a black prizefighter and his son. – Shawn V. Wilson Oct 14 '18 at 4:33

I'm not going to make this too political, but it took a lot of people a lot of effort to change these old perceptions, and not just in Hollywood, in all walks of life.

Twilight Zone was first broadcast in 1959.

The world was a significantly different place back then. Hollywood wasn't alone in excluding non-white actors [and technicians, writers, producers] from their domain.

The word 'diversity' was more usually applied to people who could 'sing and dance' and had nothing to do with ethnic diversity.

In 1959, racial stereotypes were the "norm", not the exception.
Black people rolled their eyes and said "Yesm".
Asians all had pigtails and did the laundry.
Irish all said "Top 'o the mornin'"
Jews were all bankers, jewellers or tailors.
[I could go on, but it's already making me itch]
This wasn't just a 'colour' thing, it was 'anybody who is not exactly like we are'. These days we find this all risible if not actually horrendous [depends on perspective, perhaps].

Non-white actors in leading roles were not completely unknown, but they were very rare.

The first black actor to win an Oscar for a leading role[1] was Sidney Poitier, in 1963, for his part as the itinerant worker Homer Smith in Lilies of the Field (though he was first nominated in 1958.) This was a big deal and wasn't to be repeated until Denzel Washington and Halle Berry both won in 2001

By the late 60's shows such as Star Trek were starting to push the boundaries. Star Trek did it by being "not of this time" and so could more easily portray a future where "things were different".

Though I don't know those specific Twilight Zone episodes, I think that they featured non-white actors in 1964 was actually a good first step on the way. Every journey begins with one step, no matter how small.

Rod Serling - though trying to push boundaries - also had to deal with the current networks and how they wanted to appeal to their current audiences, so was very possibly more restrained than a modern writer. From your Wikipedia link on The Encounter:

First broadcast on May 1, 1964, its racial overtones caused it to be withheld from syndication in the U.S.

One might imagine Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror may have fewer restrictions to his imagination in this day and age.

[1] I must also mention Hattie McDaniel, as the first ever black actor to be nominated - and to win - any Oscar; though the part she played to win that accolade for Best Supporting Actress was unfortunately also an eye-rolling 'yesm' part. Though potentially valid during the time the plot is set, not something anyone could be particularly proud of in this day and age (other than, of course, she did it, she won, she deserves the honour for doing it)*.
Contrast to the significantly more enlightened Django Unchained

*It's difficult to approve of the actress whilst disapproving of the portrayal that was 'of its time' and express that to a modern audience without sounding like a complete †w@† etc!!

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  • As with Star Trek, Mission impossible was also in the late 60s, unlike Star Trek, it took place around the 60s and 70s but featured a black actor, Greg Morris as the "tech" guy. From the few episodes I've seen, he was mostly in the background. – user66823 Oct 12 '18 at 16:21

You have to A) cater to your audience and B) the demographics were different then. A vast majority of the TV audience back then were while. You have to remember that TV's were rather expensive back in those days. The least expensive TV cost almost $200 and in those days $200 was almost a month salary and considering how tough blacks had it in those days one would guess that not a lot of black households had TV's. Hell, there were a lot of white households that didn't have TV's. Remember Back to the Future when Lorraine's family were excited to get their first TV? But there were black actors on Twilight Zone. 2 of whom ended up being prominent actors in the 60's; Ivan Dixon who starred on Hogan's Hero's and Greg Morris who starred on Mission Impossible.

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    Hello Studa Baker could you provide some references for your answer please. You also might want to edit what you have typed with a spellcheck (My spelling is also sometimes susspect) . – Bitter dreggs. Oct 13 '18 at 21:23

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