Viewers are calling the blockbuster-movie “Get Out,” directed by Jordan Peele and starring Daniel Kaluuya, a compassionate thriller with a thoughtful look at race. An instant classic, that broke records to became the second non-franchise film to cross the $100 million mark. The film’s success, however, drew some eye-opening criticisms from legendary Hollywood star, Samuel L. Jackson.
In an interview conducted by Hip Hop radio show “Ebro in the Morning” on Hot 97, Jackson posed the question: why are blacks not getting lead roles?
“I tend to wonder what would that movie would have been with an American brother who really feels that,” said Jackson. “Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for a hundred years. What would a brother from America have made of that role?”
Jackson has a point. The faces of black-Hollywood, if you will, have come from a British background. John Boyega, Riz Ahmed, Naomie Harris, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Idris Elba, Sophie Okonedo, David Oyelowo – just to name a few – have either lead or had prominent roles in major films. The black-American actor seemed to be relegated to less, not so memorable roles. In fact, a novice movie fan would be hard pressed to name a break-out American-born, black actor from the last 10 years. Legendary actors such as Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Forest Whitaker and a few older seasoned black-actors, seem to still be running with the torch.
FAMU’s second year performance arts student, Chelsea Maloney, shared the same sentiments as Jackson.
“The viewpoint of those actors can be different. If you are a black person growing up in America – having different perspectives on life here in America – versus being born and raised in Europe – and then coming to America to portray an American person – you will have a different kind of understanding. Acting is truth telling, so, I think the truth would be displayed differently. Not better or worse, just different. And that is what I think Samuel L. Jackson was talking about,” Maloney said.
Rarely have you ever heard of black-American born actors getting lead or prominent roles in British or other overseas movies. Whoopi Goldberg had a huge role in “Sarafina.” That came with some backlash as the natives wanted someone of their nationality to play the role.
Of course, there were British actors who have refuted Jackson’s notions. In an article David Harewood wrote for The Guardian, he said that black-British born actors are often preferred because of their ability to separate themselves from American history.
Technical Director for the theater department at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, Carey Robinson, said that Jackson’s comments are very subjective.
“The director has to decide what is best for the project. So if he feels that the actor is best for the role, then it is his decision to make,” Carey said.
By all means, the director does have the final decision- if the playing field only consists of black-British actors.
Senior music student, Travis Willis, from Jacksonville said, “It’s a forced idea to say that all black people are the same, and to generalize us. To white people, the actor who starred in “Get Out” is just another black guy. But to us, he did not go through the same struggles as we did. He was really just acting. It would’ve been more passionate if it was somebody from the United States.”
Public Enemy released their single “911 Is a Joke,” back in 1990. “Get up to get down, 911 is a joke in your town,” is the song’s hook. The same can be said today with Hollywood. “Get out to get down- HOLLYWOOD, is a joke in your town!” Or for this matter, the United States.
Black-British and other overseas actors are cementing their legacy in the Hollywood and rightfully so. However, by overlooking, it often-times dismisses blacks born and raised here in America. This raises a lot of questions of the utilization, or lack thereof, of said actors and why they are not getting their fair play. Hollywood had to “Get Out” when they could have “integrated” American born black actors.