That would be a helpful stat to quote if ethnicity came up in your exam (wider context).
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American television's real ScandalWhy have audiences had to wait 38 years for a black female lead character?
Surprisingly, Washington is the first black female lead on network television in 38 years. Not since 1974 when Tessa Graves starred as a policewoman in the blaxploitation show Get Christie Love! has a primetime US network show featured a black woman as the main character.
Since then the roles for black actresses have typically been limited to supportive friend or snappy sidekick. Most recently, former Doctor Who star Freema Agyeman landed a supporting role in the upcoming Sex and the City prequel, The Carrie Diaries, fellow Brit Gugu Mbatha-Raw played one half of a husband/wife spy team in the swiftly cancelled Undercovers and former reality star Nene Leakes had turns in Glee and sitcom The New Normal.
Even Miranda Bailey, arguably the strongest character on the show that made Shonda Rhimes's name – Grey's Anatomy – is frequently relegated to the sidelines in favour of another smooch between Meredith and McDreamy.
As the crime novelist Attica Locke, who started her career as a scriptwriter, says: "When I was raising money for my first film [in the late 1990s] my lead character was a black woman and all the talk was about how could they raise the money for a film with a black female lead." The film was never made.
Yet Scandal, which is based on the experiences of Judy Smith, who is also black, ignores traditional studio lamentations about the marketing power of black actresses. Olivia Pope, the show's heroine, is both avenging angel and firefighter, She is a former White House communications director turned crisis-management expert – the sort of person who has the president on speed dial and is the first port of call for DC's players when the muck starts flying.
Small wonder then that Washington admitted "every actress of colour on the planet wanted this role". "[Olivia] is someone who happened to be born female and black and those elements add to who she is as a human being," she said in a recent interview with CNN.com. "Do I think another person of another race could play her? Yes. Do I think it would change the story a little bit? Do I think it would change the character a little bit? Yes."
There are already signs that audiences will not have to wait 38 years before seeing another woman of colour starring in a starring role. The much-anticipated Infamous, starring Meagan Good, starts on NBC next year.