All Articles Tagged "black actors"
AMC’s widely popular scripted series, Mad Men, has been receiving its share of criticism over the starring cast’s lack of diversity or as Shadow and Act’s Tambay A. Obenson calls it, “vanilla casting.” Actress Erika Alexander, who is known best for her role as Maxine on 90′s sitcom Living Single, recently took to her blog to let the public know that she has also taken note of the show’s failure to feature Black actors.
Prior to last night’s two-hour season premiere, Alexander shared a blog post titled, “Why I Wrote A ‘Mad Men’ Episode With Negroes,” expressing that although she is not a writer for the show, she’d love to see a more diverse cast on the AMC series. Towards the end of the essay, she provides a link where readers can check out the entire 45-page script. Her blog post in it’s entirety reads:
“Why did I write an episode of Mad Men with negroes? And by that I mean with “negro” characters in it, not with.. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Anyway, why did I write an episode of TV that I know will never be made? Though I work as an actress and have pitched and sold a television series or two in my time in Hollywood, I’m not a writer on Mad Men, so this episode won’t appear anywhere but here. Why, then? And why negroes? Aren’t we finished with all that? In honor of tonight’s Season 6 Premiere, let me tell you about it.
I like Mad Men. A lot. I like the subject matter – advertising; I like the cast – Don Draper is hot; I like the look – Hot Eames meets Op Art; I like the writing – Matthew Weiner is a storytelling beast. I love the writing.
I have only one issue with Mad Men (ok, with a bunch of shows, but let’s stick with this one): I’d love to see more diversity. I’m a black actress, so diversity is an issue that comes up for me. A lot. Mad Men, Game Of Thrones, Girls, Veep, these are cool shows, except for the fact that they would really rock with more people of color, series regulars or otherwise. I complain, wtf?.. and bemoan, WTF!.. but alas, for all my years in TV, I’m not able to make a difference in my own living room. Or am I?
I needed to find a different way to contribute to the conversation, to answer the constant refrain from show creators that they don’t want to just “shoehorn” black characters into their shows. Lena Dunham has said “Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting”. Ok, don’t write in a token character, write five or ten great characters of color.
To be fair, Matthew Weiner has addressed this issue. “I do feel like I’m proud of the fact that I am not telling a wish fulfillment story of the real interaction of white America and black America… I’m very proud of the fact I’m not doing this guilty thing.”
Respectfully, I believe a storyteller has permission to imagine and create unusual situations in his or her fictional world to tell a larger truth. But I get it, race is complicated.
So, I decided to apply my creative powers to writing an episode of Mad Men. I tried to incorporate the “difficult other” organically into the storyline. For me, it was easy. Mad Men is set in New York City in the 60’s. Those times were all about race. It was the defining issue of the 20th Century. I was born in the mountains of Arizona, but as a writer I don’t have a hard time imagining black and white on Madison Avenue. My husband worked as a black art director in advertising agencies both mainstream and “black-oriented” and my father-in-law was a pioneering black executive in the 1960s. I merged the two and brought the mountain to Mohammed. My Don Draper goes Uptown and meets his match. The show already had good bones, I just put some dark meat on them.
Here it is. It’s called MAD-MEN-UPTOWN-SATURDAY-NIGHT (shout-out). The script won’t be made, but I hope to demonstrate that it can be done, and that iconic TV characters can play well with “others”.
Enjoy. Let’s keep the conversation going. Let me know your thoughts. Xx. e.”
What do you think of Erika’s decision to pen her own script? Did you peep the brotha she added to the show’s keyart?
We all know there’s Hollywood and then there’s black Hollywood. African American stars don’t get the same notoriety as their white counterparts despite their good looks, amazing acting chops and undeniable star power. Sad,right? From heartthrobs to veterans, these 15 thespians deserve the awards and accolades more than any other. Check out this list of black actors and actresses that should be leading in Hollywood.
Nia Long is beautiful. She is also the girl next door with a great deal of sass and sophistication. She lit our fire playing Nina in “Love Jones” and Bird in “Soul Food.” She’s been acting for quite some time and her staying power is phenomenal. Hollywood should take a deeper look.
Tags:Alfre Woodard, Angela Bassett, Back to Black, black actors, black actresses, Black Hollywood, Golden Brooks, Golden Tichina Arnold, Hollywood, Jill Marie Jones, larenz tate, leading african american actors, lela rochon, Maia Campell, Mekhi Phifer, michael beach, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, Omar Epps, Persia WhiteGirlfriends, Raven SymoneKhalil Kain, Tatyana Ali, tracee ellis ross
Olivia Pope And The Depiction Of Multifaceted Womanhood: Why We Love Kerry Washington And Her Honest Portrayals Of Women
I haven’t heard this much criticism of a television character… ever. Kerry Washington’s role in the hit prime time drama Scandal as Olivia Pope, the boss yet internally conflicted “fixer”/mistress to the President of the United States has EVERYONE talking. And when I say “everyone” I do mean everyone. On Thursday nights at 10 pm EST, my Twitter timeline is rockin’ with Scandal hashtags by family, friends, politicians, athletes and actors alike, raving about the twists, the turns, the brilliant writing, the fashion, the flashbacks, the very different funky 70s soundtrack… Every aspect of the show seems to be something of a phenomenon, especially since it’s the first primetime drama with a black female lead role on a major network in years. Some of us see progression in that. Some of us see off-the-charts talent and entertainment.
Still, the show has its vehement critics. Those not unlike CBS, Atlanta reporter Mo Ivory who breaks down Washington’s role as “no different than Joseline from “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” or Kim from “Real Housewives of Atlanta” – she just has more expensive clothes, a higher paying job and tighter security.”
I don’t agree or disagree with Ivory’s thoughts. I’ve been so focused on Washington’s accurate portrayal (no matter how messy) of just a WOMAN in general that I haven’t had the time to bust down a list of the horrible characteristics.
I watch Kerry beast through her performance as Olivia Pope every week and think to myself that I have NEVER seen such a consistent powerhouse performance in primetime, week after week. As Pope, Washington peels back the layers of a very human woman who can clean up anyone’s, EVERYONE’S mistakes and hiccups around her but is just barely holding together the steadily unfolding mess that is her own life. I don’t see a black woman who is a mistress when I watch Olivia Pope. I see a woman in general who has issues just like the rest of the world and is trying to get clarity and peace of mind in the midst of a crap storm of confrontation and seemingly buried secrets. Kerry Washington executes the human-ness of the role flawlessly. That’s what I’m tuned in for.
Is she playing a mistress? Yes. I know, I know. That sets black women back hundreds of years and blah blah blah. I don’t agree with all that simply because for years, blacks have had to fight with screenwriters and directors and producers to allow us to be human beings on screen. Not caricatures. Not trumped up stereotypes. Not ALWAYS Mammys and drivers or harlots and drug dealers. Just everyday, normal human beings, whatever that entails. For this particular role, Kerry Washington unfolds a woman’s struggle with loving someone she cannot wholly have, being strong for everyone else all the time, working almost ‘round the clock, trying to cover past mistakes with present goodwill. Who of us haven’t dealt with at least one of the above?! She plays a human being, people! She shows the multi-faceted womanhood that many of us try to deny by criticizing roles like this or even everyday people like this.
About a month or so ago during her interview with Oprah, Washington drew parallels between Olivia Pope and her character of “Broomhilda,” a slave woman in the deep south spaghetti western Django Unchained, which opened as a box office hit with very mixed reviews. She expressed that her goal as an actress is simply to honor humanity by telling these stories in as real a way as possible. Washington also stated that she felt honored to play both roles because it showed how far we had come as a nation. Her ability to be able to play such a multi-layered character like Olivia Pope essentially was an answer to her character Broomhilda’s prayers that one day that kind of freedom would be possible for a black woman. She talked about the timeline of black acting, citing that in the beginning, everything was stereotypical if you wanted to be a black actor. Then, there was the era of “black perfection” where all roles taken on by black actors had to be pristine, no flaws. Now, we live in an age where we are beginning to be allowed to simply be human. Flaws and all.
That idea struck a chord with me as I reviewed Washington’s body of work from Save The Last Dance to Django. She has always chosen roles that some might say have made black folks “look bad,” yet they offered an honest look into the lives of honest characters. And what is a serious actor if not an honest vessel?
During her acceptance speech at the 2012 Black Girls ROCK! event, Washington said, “I get to honor humanity. We are all valuable human beings and all our stories deserve to be told.”
We, as freethinking human beings need to stop being so quick to judge the black artist. What Kerry Washington and Viola Davis and countless other black actresses are doing is monumental if we change our outlook. We cannot whittle down the idea of black art only to what makes us feel comfortable. Was Viola Davis’s role as a 1960s maid too painful a memory for some of us? Is Olivia’s role as a mistress (no matter how classy and fierce) too telling of many a modern day reality for some of us? I see Washington as a brave soul for pushing through and bringing a truth to television that has long been airbrushed to ease internal tensions. I see Washington as an example of the versatility black women have not been allowed to exhibit for so long. The honesty we have not been able to speak on or to portray without feeling some sort of way. I celebrate her courage to honor humanity even in the face of such opposition. If we’re more fixated on the flaws of the character rather than the honesty those flaws bring to entertainment, perhaps we need to do a bit more soul-searching and a little less judging.
La Truly is a late-blooming Aries whose writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. La seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change among young women through her writing. Check out her blog: www.hersoulinc.com and Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly.
Good news for New York thespians. According to a new report, minority actors are finding more and more jobs on Broadway. The percentage of minority actors working on the Great White Way and at the top 16 not-for-profit theater companies in New York City rose to 23 percent during the 2011-2012 season, reports The Grio. Still, even with the boost in numbers, white actors on Broadway continue to be over-represented.
Here’s the breakdown: African-American actors were cast in 16 percent of all roles, Hispanics in three percent and Asian-American actors in three percent, found The Asian American Performers Action Coalition in its annual report on ethnic representation on New York stages. Yet Caucasians filled 77 percent of all roles.
“Black actors increased their representation by 2 percent compared to last season, while Hispanics stayed the same as last season, and Asian-Americans saw their numbers tick up by 1 percent,” writes The Grio.
Although the growth has been slow, there has long been an African-Amerian presence on the Great White Way. In 1903 the first Broadway musical written by African Americans, and the first to star African Americans, In Dahomey, hit theaters. Vinnette Justine Carroll (Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope) in 1972 became the first African-American woman Broadway director. And Phylicia Rashad became the first African American to win Broadway theater’s Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play in 2004 for her performance in “A Raisin in the Sun.”
According to a number of West African publications including Ghana Vibe, Academy Award-winning actor and top on the list of everybody’s favorite black actor Denzel Washington, is in Nigeria for the filming of his first Nollywood film.
There is not much more information about the alleged film, particularly what it is about. However the reports all say that the film is called Spider Basket and that is is supposedly co-funded by Nigerian businessman Dennis Osadebe, who is quoted in saying, “Denzel is just one of many Hollywood stars that I want to witness the talents in this country and to impact significantly on Nollywood. Others are coming.”
Don’t know if this is genuine or just some wishful thinking, which has spun out of control on the internet; however the idea of a major black, Hollywood star, particularly one of Washington’s caliber, signing up for a film produced out of Nollywood, makes me extremely excited. Something like that could progressively pave the way for more trans-Atlantic collaborations between blacks on different continents. It would be like a Marcus Garvey dream realized – at least on film.
Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit, however there does appear to be a number of American, black actors seeking work in Africa. And I’m not just talking about mainstream, or even independent, Hollywood Out-of-Africa films, which might feature a American black actor and is largely conceived out of the fantasies of white directors. I’m talking about films, conceived and written from the minds of black folks.
Like Isiah Washington, who has virtually disappeared from Hollywood after being fired from his hit television “Grey’s Anatomy” for calling his former cast mate a gay slur. Last year Washington starred in the Nigerian film Dr. Bello, a story about a American black doctor, who goes to Nigeria on the hunt of a special African potion that will cure cancer, and could help save his medical career and an African doctor from prison. The film, which also stars Haitian-born actor Jimmy Jean Louis and A-list Nigerian actresses Genevieve Nnaji and Stephanie Okereke, was written and directed by Tony Abulu, a Nigerian-raised founder of Black Ivory Communication, who has a history of taking Pan-Africanism approach into his film making. According to his bio, his previous film Back to Africa, also joined together an American cast and crew with their Nigerian counterparts. According to a recent article in the New York Times, Washington said, “…he signed on in part because he was drawn to the opportunity to “cross-pollinate” Hollywood and Nollywood.”
Vivica Fox, who is staring opposite of Washington in Dr. Bello, has also appeared in other black African-produced cinema, most recently Jeta Amata’s Black Gold and Niyi Towolawi’s Turning Point, a film, which also giving new life to mostly forgotten about American black actors Ernie Hudson (Ghost Busters) and Todd Bridges (“Different Strokes”). Nollywood has also provide opportunities for current working actors, whose success in Hollywood has yet to reach household name status. Such is the case for Gbenga Akinnagbe, a American actor born to Nigerian parents and most known for playing Chris Partlow on the television show “The Wire.” He was able to not only star but produce his very own crime drama in Nigeria called “Render to Caesar.” According to publish reports, Akinnagbe was able to secure funding for his project from former Nigerian banker.
Depending on whom you ask, Nigeria’s Nollywood is either the second or third largest film industry in the world. What is certain though, is that Nollywood is definitely holding its own with Hollywood and the Indian counterpart Bollywood, producing over 2,000 films annually and generating profits into the hundred of millions. According to an article last year in Black Enterprise:
“Similar to model used by African-American filmmaker Tyler Perry in the states, the films are typically produced at a very modest budget and yield a high return. With an average production rate of $15,000, Nollywood films often yield up to 10 times that amount in return. Nollywood filmmakers—eager to use Black American talent in order to broaden their international appeal—say that while the actors might not be able to demand the same paycheck as actors like Denzel Washington would for “Safe House” or Viola Davis would for “The Help,” the sky’s the limit on the types of stories they can tell.”
The pie in the sky is not also limited to story telling as Nollywood’s ever-expanding distribution network. Last year’s launch of a streaming-video library called iROKOtv, helped bring African cinema to new audiences across the African Diaspora, particularly in the UK, Caribbean and America markets. Likewise, a recent report suggests that the global popularity of the Nigerian film industry will be a major growth driver, with an expected compound annual growth of 3 percent in the country’s leisure sector. With that said, Nollywood is still a work in progress and more often then not, Nollywood films are plagued by poor story development, shoddy audio and technical error. However it’s continued growth over the years – not just in dollars but in actual film production – also proves that the industry has longevity and is able to stand on its own, outside of Hollywood’s power and authority.
The latter is extremely important, especially when considering solutions to the difficulty that black writers, directors and actors in the West face in terms of finding work or getting a project financed and backed through Hollywood. Not to mention the continued debates which spawn from the representation of black folks in films like Django Unchained and the soon to be released Nina Simone biopic. Nollywood might not be perfect but it should also be thought of as another viable avenue for blacks in the film industry to validate our own.
Black actors have come a long way in the last few decades. These stars may be one of the only black actors on their shows but not only do they hold it down, they steal almost every scene they are in. If you haven’t tuned in to any of these shows, click through for a reason to.
Last year, RZA gave us a reason to watch Californication, a show starring David Duchovny as a boozing writer who slores around town. In it, RZA plays a rapper named Samurai Apocalypse (of course). Since RZA is basically playing himself — a ride or die preacher/prophet with a sharp tongue — he is a lot of fun to watch.
‘We’re Not Nominated When We Do Honorable Work’: Jamie Foxx And Kerry Washington Speak On Hollywood And Black Actors
Django Unchained stars Kerry Washington and Jamie Foxx recently sat down with The Grio‘s Chris Witherspoon to discuss their new film, which follows the story of a slave who frees himself from slavery and then goes back to rescue his wife. The two A-listers opened up to Chris about some touchy subjects including Kerry not being Emmy-nominated for her outstanding work in Scandal as well as the common belief that Black actors are frequently overlooked when it comes to award nominations in Hollywood. Check out some of the interview’s highlights.
On Kerry not getting the recognition she deserves:
Kerry: I feel really grateful to have a job and to be able to do what I love for a living and to work with people who I respect and admire. I do this because I love to do it, not because I have a desire to have attention.
Jamie: Well, I think she should be nominiated. I think it’s right to feel that way.Because sometimes you look at people that do get nominated and you go [makes confused face]… but I tell people, Kerry Washington has yet begun to fight.
On if they’d be opposed to getting an Oscar nomination for playing slaves:
Kerry: I don’t think you can ever control how people respond to the work. I’ve never had shame in playing somebody who is a slave or a prostitute, or anybody who may be looked down upon in society. I think we all deserve to have our stories told no matter who we are. And if I’m proud of playing a woman who is handling a crises, I’m gonna be proud of playing a woman who is a maid. My story doesn’t deserve to be told more than my grandmother’s story. My grandmother did clean houses. My great great grandmother was a slave. Everybody deserves to have their story told. There’s no shame in who we are or who we’ve been.
Jamie: A lot of times we’re not nominated when we do honorable work. Because with the slave she [Washington] plays there is dignity in everything she played. It wasn’t subservient; she wasn’t giving up to anything. So a lot of times they do overlook that, they may not want to reward that.
Check out the interview on the next page. How do you feel about Hollywood’s tendency to overlook Black actors?
They are some of Hollywood’s best kept secrets. These talented brothers and sisters can hold their own on the screen alongside the industry’s heavyweights and consistently give great performances. Yet when the awards seasons roll around, their names are barely, albeit, rarely mentioned. Here is our list of actors who we think are truly underrated, and not just the usual suspects. Do you agree?
Aunjanue Ellis has captivated audiences with her riveting performances in movies Ray, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and most recently in her role as Yule Mae in the box office hit The Help. She has also earned critical acclaim for her TV work on True Blood, Missing and The Mentalist. With her acting chops, it’s hard to believe she has yet to land a lead role on TV or on the silver screen. The Brown University graduate was recently invited to teach entertainment industry courses as an Artist-In-Residence at Hampton University.
Tee Tee is the quietly hilarious cousin/assistant of Malik Wright on The Game and although he’s a minor character, the actor behind the man, Barry Floyd, knows just how lucky he is to have the rare job of being an actor in Hollywood. Floyd started off as a production assistant on Girlfriends, with no aspirations of becoming an actor. But the constant push by show creator Mara Brock Akil and the show staff inspired him to direct his natural charisma and humor into acting. The actor, who also happens to be a writer, sat down with 24wiredtv.com to talk about his career and why Black Hollywood needs to reinvest in itself.
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You can almost already foresee the Oscar that Idris Elba will someday bring home as the British actor continues to gain notoriety in Hollywood and increasingly stellar roles. Though he;’ enjoying a very successful career run, Idris isn’t oblivious to the barriers of being a black man trying to make it as a thespian, the thing is he just has no interest in talking about it all day.
In an interview with Vulture.com, Idris was asked why he thinks he’s had a slow rise to fame, to which he answered the fact that he’s British and there are already more than enough leading men to go around. But when the reporter asked if whether he thought being black had anything to do with it, he quickly shut him down and said “next question.”
“I’m so bored of answering that,” he added. “Are there differences between black actors’ opportunities and white actors’ opportunities? Yes, there are. It’s been said. I’d rather a young black actor read about success as opposed to how tough it was. I get these roles because I can act and that’s it. Hopefully that’s it. The less I talk about being black, the better.”
Good point. It seems Idris had enough of the “woe is me talk” from a very early age, opting to actually do something about it instead. During the interview he talked about his childhood and the extremist right-wing party, The National Front, saying “Their beliefs are ‘Keep Britain White” and added:
“Walking down the street, someone would call you a black c*nt. I was like, ‘F*** that.’ ”
According to the article, it was around this time that Idris decided to shorten his given name, Idrissa, which means “firstborn son,” because he got tired of beating people up when they told him it sounded too feminine.
“I quickly got well known because I was tall and wasn’t taking any s***.”
He forgot to mention fine, although like the subject of how hard it is for black actors in Hollywood, he’s not too keen on spending a lot of time talking about his looks either. When Vulture asked if he’s ever worried about damaging that face we’ve come to love when he takes on action roles like Prometheus and Thor, he said:
“If I made my living off my face alone, I don’t think I’d be here talking to you now. I don’t have much to lose. Besides, there are characters out there that have crooked noses. I think I’ll get those characters.”
I’m pretty sure he will too, although he insists he’s still relatively unknown in the industry.
“My publicist says a lot of the time people don’t get it. They’re like, ‘Ee-dris Elba?’ And she’s like, ‘The guy from The Wire.’ I don’t see myself as famous. I’m more, ‘What’s his name again?’ And I love that.”
What do you think about Idris’s comments? Is he right that the less he talks about being black, the better off he is?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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