Who cancelled Roseanne? Meet Channing Dungey, the cut-throat head of ABC Entertainment
Knowing Roseanne’s standing within the industry, there weren’t many who could have stood up against her extremely divisive ramblings on social media
ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey is a force to be reckoned with.
For those clueless about why she's being glorified, she is the first African-American boss of a major broadcast network who was single-handedly responsible for the network's decision to pull the plug on Roseanne after Roseanne Barr's distasteful, racist tweet.
The Roseanne reboot has been quite controversial for a while — specifically since the show started to cater to its lead actor Roseanne Barr's personal political beliefs. Barr has been vocal about her support for Trump all over social media, which is why her attacking a former Obama adviser doesn’t seem that absurd.
But Barr took things too far when she compared Valerie Jarrett – who is African American – to an ape on Twitter. Initially, Roseanne pushed back against criticism, but she finally acknowledged her mistake and apologized, admitting that her "joke" was in "bad taste".
There were also some excuses about her being in an Ambien-induced state when she posted the tweet. Dungey was hearing none of that, of course.
The network labelled the tweet “abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values" and announced that the show is cancelled. Dungey’s decision was backed by Disney CEO Bob Iger, head of ABC's parent company, who said, "There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing."
This isn't the first time Dungey has made headlines; back in 2016, she was under the spotlight when she became the first African-American to preside over the entertainment division of a major broadcast television network.
So who exactly is Channing Dungey?
The company bio of the 49-year-old Sacramento native states that she oversees "All development, programming, marketing and scheduling operations for ABC prime time and late-night.”
After having been with ABC in various roles since 2004, Dungey has been credited with developing some of the biggest names in TV dramas for ABC, including Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder and Quantico.
Dungey had started out as a development assistant for Davis Entertainment, 20th Century Fox. Later, she became the president of a film production company called Material in 2001.
A 1991 graduate from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in 1991, Dungey has also taught graduate students at the school a course titled "Developing the Drama Pilot.” She calls herself a ‘TV junkie’ after having spent nearly a decade working in film.
It was in the early 2000s, when she began being drawn towards the small screen, she shared in an UCLA Newsroom interview. "I love to read, and TV seemed more like a good book, with these incredible series unfolding like chapters in a novel," she said last year.
Along with that, Dungey is also the founding member and board member of a non-profit organization called ‘Step Up’ – which is dedicated to empowering girls from under-resourced communities to become "confident, college-bound, career-focused, and ready to join the next generation of professional women."
The shows she has worked on in the past are big on diversity. She has worked with strong ABC figures like writer and producer Shonda Rhimes (Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Grey’s Anatomy), who herself is African American. Dungey has also supported shows like Quantico, which stars Indian actress Priyanka Chopra as the lead.
The decision to cast ABC network’s first black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, was also spearheaded by Dungey herself.
However, the most difficult decision in her career must have been when she had to fire her own sister Merrin Dungey from Grey’s Anatomy.
In 2007, the pilot episode of Grey’s Anatomy spinoff, Private Practice, had already been shot. But the network executives decided to recast the role of Addison Montgomery’s friend from college Dr Naomi Bennett with Aura McDonald.
Merrin, then a veteran actress, was scheduled to play the part initially, and when the news of her having been replaced had to be delivered to her, Channing, who was then a development executive at Disney’s TV studio, had volunteered to make the call.
Critics believe that the ability to have done this is what proves that Channing Dungey truly has what it takes to head ABC’s entertainment network. And given the latest scandal, it is clear that she doesn’t shy away from using her position and power for the better.
After the network announced its decision, there were many who asked "Why now?"
Dungey has an answer: “I try to just worry about the things that I can control,” Dungey had told The Hollywood Reporter last August when she was asked about Barr’s quite vocal Twitter feed which had managed to raise quite a few eyebrows within the entertainment industry already.
It is believed that Dungey herself had hired Barr for the Roseanne reboot, but her recent actions were the last nail in the coffin.
Willa Paskin from Slate, wrote: "We can never know for sure what would have happened if a white person were in charge of ABC at this moment, but it strikes me that that person would have been much more likely to administer [a] wrist slap, continuing to put up with the polarizing circus act that is Barr."
Current and former ABC executives, Hollywood agents and producers who know her were not the least bit surprised when she stepped up to fill Lee’s shoes and run ABC entertainment.
"Paul has always said, 'When I leave, Channing will be the next president,” revealed a network insider to the Los Angeles Times. “She's one of those good people that you always root for,” said the network executive. “She's the smartest person they've got.”
But this collective respect and admiration was not won in a day; Dungey has proven herself worthy of earning the love and affection of people in the network via her abilities to tackle any situation whatsoever.
For example, her close bond with Shonda Rhimes – it goes back to the early days of Grey’s Anatomy, which was not long after Dungey had been hired in 2004 by ABC parent Walt Disney Co's television production studio.
It is said that, back in the first season of the show, the network seemingly had issues with its direction — to the extent where production was to shut down to make extreme changes. It was Dungey who stepped in and helped Rhimes get the show back on track, towards the massive hits it is today.
But Rhimes isn’t the only one fond of Dungey, as Walt Disney Co Chairman and Chief Executive Bob Iger is another big fan of hers too. Rick Rosen, partner and head of television at William Morris Endeavor, asserted how TV agents adore working with her, as Los Angeles Times reported. “She is very bright and very well-regarded,” he said.
Knowing Roseanne’s standing within the industry, there weren’t many who could have stood up against her extremely divisive ramblings on social media.
Channing Dungey did the one thing ABC should have done a long time ago. And, for now, that’s all the world needs to know about her.