NBCUniversal vice president Kelly Edwards has long since realized her childhood goal of becoming a studio executive, but today, she is still reaching out for more as she strives to make a difference in the lives of others. As the vice president of strategic initiatives and diversity for the entertainment and digital networks/integrated media at NBCUniversal, the California-bred Edwards yields considerable influence at the newly minted entertainment giant, which boasts one of entertainment’s best reputations for diversity and inclusion.
A graduate of Vassar College, Edwards began her career as a casting assistant working for directors John Hughes, Francis Ford Coppola, Rob Reiner before moving on as a reader at New Line and then a film development executive for director Garry Marshall, and producer Laura Ziskin. Shifting gears, she ventured into television holding several key positions in comedy development at the Fox Broadcasting Co., (where she helped to create the television series Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place, Living Single, Clueless, The Wild Thornberry’s and Ned and Stacey). Edwards is also responsible for identifying stand-ups such as Bernie Mac, Chris Rock, D.L. Hughley, and Dave Chappelle and helping many of them move into scripted television.
Joining UPN as the Senior Vice President of Comedy Development, Edwards established that network’s first successful comedy block with Girlfriends, One on One, and The Parkers. She also developed popular programs for the Cartoon Network (Home Movies, Dilbert) and Fox’s Malcolm in the Middle. While at UPN, Edwards co-founded Colour TV, a networking group for diverse creative executives. Colour TV has now branched into Colour Film, Colour TV East, and Colour Assistants, which are all designed to connect current and future industry executives with one another.
Edwards brings a solid background and considerable experience to her new role at NBCUniversal. With an impressive list of accomplishments in both film and television, she is an executive with the clout and connection to get things done. BlackEnterprise.com spoke with Edwards about key issues around diversity in Hollywood.
BlackEnterprise.com: Why is diversity important?
Kelly Edwards: Whether you are talking about ethnic, gender, age, economic or diversity of orientation, I truly believe that having different opinions, experiences, and voices in a room creates a much more interesting product. And on a purely business level, we’ve seen an incredible shift in the population recently. The multicultural audience now represents nearly $4 trillion of spending power. And for NBCUniversal, making sure that audience is included both in front of and behind the camera is very important.