A “super-ashamed” Josh Thomas has publicly apologised for comments he made about hiring non-white actors during a panel discussion at the Sydney Opera House in 2016.
A clip of the Writers’ Room event emerged on social media on Monday.
In it, Thomas – a comedian who created, starred, wrote and sometimes directed his cult hit series Please Like Me – discusses how it is “hard” to find experienced non-white actors to fill roles.
“The other thing about making a television show that I didn’t know about, that I found quite confronting, is that because you have to pick every person in the show, it’s like, ‘Josh, what do you want the 7/11 worker to look like?’,” he said.
“It’s like, ‘Um. Do you make them Indian? Or is that offensive?’. Or then, if you make them white – is that a bit like you’re lying, really.”
When co-panellist Dan Harmon, creator of Community and Rick and Morty, was asked for his perspective on diverse hiring practices, Thomas interjected, saying, “It’s easier in the States.”
“Finding people who have been given the same opportunities, where they then get to go and be great at acting, is really hard,” he said.
“Where none of the other shows are hiring people who aren’t white, finding an experienced actor who isn’t white is really hard.”
The clip emerged after Thomas posted an image of Coon cheese to Twitter, arguing it was offensive to Indigenous people and that the name should be changed.
In the resulting fallout among his followers, activist, actor and writer Moreblessing Maturure posted a YouTube link to the 2016 panel discussion – which also featured Australian actors and comedians 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,” she wrote.
The clip sparked an immediate reaction from many of Thomas’s followers, and others who saw it for the first time. Among them was comedian and actor Nina Oyama:
“Dude I can absolutely confirm this. I saw it live, it was a total s–t show even then!” she said.
On Tuesday, Thomas apologised – again through Twitter. He said the clip showed him being “a really dumb, illogical, insensitive idiot”.
“I’m super ashamed of the comments I made, and I would like to apologise,” he wrote.
“I am committed to doing better.”