Have you seen Get Out?
It’s the question damn near everybody is asking about the so-called surprise box-office hit directed by Jordan Peele (of Key & Peele fame). But if you’re Samuel Jackson, that’s not the question you’re asking. Instead, it’s “Why wasn’t the star an African-American male?”
It doesn’t necessarily sound like Jackson is trying to create an “us vs. them” type of argument, which is more division Black folks don’t need. But as he said in an interview with Hot 97’s Ebro in the Morning recently, he wonders how things would have played out in the film had the actor been a young African-American man who deals with the sort of racism displayed in it. Daniel Kaluuya, who stars as lead character Chris, is British, born in London, the son of Ugandan immigrants. Jackson was raised in Tennessee and attended segregated schools growing up. He knows racism.
“I tend to wonder, what would that movie have been with an American brother who really feels that in a way, because Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for 100 years,” Jackson said while there to promote his new film, Kong: Skull Island. “It’s only like eight real White people left in Britain [laughs]. The rest are mixed. What would a brother from America have made of that role? Some things are universal, but everything ain’t. Which is one of the things about Selma and some other things where I go, you know, ‘There are some brothers from America who could have been in that movie that would have had a different idea about how that works or about how King thinks or how about how King felt.'”
When asked by host Ebro Darden why British actors are often chosen to play American roles in film and television, Jackson said, “They’re cheaper than us for one thing [laughs]. They don’t cost as much.”
He continued, “And they think they’re better trained for some reason than we are because they’re classically trained. I don’t know what the love affair is with all of that. It’s all good. Everybody needs to work, but there are a lot of brothers here that need to work, too.”
Vulture.com actually spoke with Kaluuya, before Jackson shared his opinion, about the idea of an African American being better suited to portray a very African-American experience. Peele stated in the past that while he didn’t seek out a British actor to play Chris, Kaluuya was the perfect match for the character. And Kaluuya told the publication that just because he’s not American doesn’t mean he hasn’t dealt with prejudice.
One-hundred percent. I know what it means to be stopped by police. I’ve been stopped by police a lot. And the party scene, when everyone was highlighting how black Chris was and saying “black” things and being nice. You kind of can’t say anything, because you know the intention is to make people feel welcome. However, the impact is making people feel isolated and different, because you just want to feel included, like you belong. That’s what the conflict is, and that’s what it captured. Only a black guy could write this, only someone that lives this. I’ve been to so many parties in England and in America that’s exactly like that, where you’re kind of like seen as Other. When you’re just living your life, and you have to adopt the Other in order to understand and navigate the society. That’s what I find really cool about it.
In Kaluuya’s defense, I never would have known that he was British until I was told after seeing the movie. He acted the hell out of Chris (particularly in his use of his eyes and facial expressions). Also, in that Hot 97 interview, Jackson stated that he hadn’t seen Get Out, but intends to. He makes an interesting point, but I think if he had seen the movie first, he might have felt differently.
Still, do you think an African-American actor would have been better suited to play the role of Chris?
Jackson’s thoughts on Get Out start around the 25:30 mark:
Images via WENN/Splash