'Manifest': Jeff Rake's show treats diversity as its key element
Along with a room of writers from diverse backgrounds, Rake's 'Manifest' holds a palette of characters representing an inclusive team of artistes
NBC's new show 'Manifest' has taken off on a record-breaking start and as the show progresses, the mystery behind the plane has intensified and the slow burner continues to make us ask questions about the tiny hints and details. However, what really stands out and sets the show apart from its contemporaries is its diverse cast and crew. While NBC is on the brink of launching its 13th diverse writers' program 'Writers on the Verge', 'Manifest' creator Jeff Rake has already given us proof on what happens when a room consists of writers from different backgrounds.
Speaking to Collider, Rake had confessed that in spite of the gaps in his plot which he has been working on for almost 10 years, he finds himself fortunate to work with eight "incredibly talented writers", who help him "to fill in all the gaps in between".
As a result, the characters in the show are not a singular representation of a particular class or race. From actors of Greek-Egyptian origin to those who have spent most of their careers in the Indian film industry, 'Manifest' includes a plethora of characters who continue to be rooted in their origins while serving their own purpose in the plot.
Rake has made no distinction between the characters. Instead of divulging them into the usual humdrum affair of stereotyping, which has been pretty common in shows like 'The Big Bang Theory', Rake's characters have their own individual purpose in the story.
While Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) and Ben (Josh Dallas) do hold the central stage as protagonists, characters like Saanvi Bahl (Parveen Kaur), Radd (Curtiss Cook), and Grace Stone (Athena Karkanis) have some extremely significant inputs to provide in the story. Rake seems to have been pretty careful in lining up his characters. Unlike 'Lost' which mainly consisted of white actors, Rake took care of the fact that an international aircraft can never have only white passengers.
Montego Air Flight 828 was leaving from Jamaica for New York on the day the fateful incident happened, and Rake has rationally done his bit by considering that an international transport system will have passengers from various backgrounds. In fact, Rake's take on depicting a more inclusive storyline does not end with the passengers landing on the ground after five years. The characters continue to act as catalysts to the plot. While Radd's music acts as Ben's calling, Saanvi's theory answers some very significant questions about the show. On the other hand, Grace's turmoil gives an alternate perspective as well.
As Rake mentioned, "You want to make sure that you’re representing diverse points of view, in regard to gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, and where and how a person grew up."
'Manifest' is not a story about just a brother and sister. It is the story about an Indian doctor, who tries to overcome the conservative thoughts of her culture and indulge herself in the world of research and medical practices. It holds up the problems faced by an African-American who on returning home realizes that his 18-year-old son has been put behind bars on false charges. It also subtly points out that the aristocratic exclusivity of classical music does not include a street musician, who can play Schubert just as well as Joshua Bell.
Rake defined his show as "a cross-section of humanity", and it is certainly the writers' room which stands as the biggest representation of the statement. Rake has carefully put together a team of writers, which includes Amanda Green, Greg Nelson, Matthew Lau, Margaret Easley, Bodak Esfarjani, Darika Fuhrmann, and Caroline Falls, who have in their turn put together an extremely inclusive character palette. It is probably high time that Hollywood begins tapping its "incredibly talented pool of writers", as Rake would call them.