Frequently Asked Questions
This is an index of all the questions we hear most often when people hear what we’re working on.
Whether you’re asking them yourself or looking for some guidance on how to best answer questions someone if asking you, we hope you find these answers and the resources listed helpful.
Am I Right
...for this job? ▿
You’ve been offered an audition (or contract) to play a character from a different ethnic/cultural, gender expression, or physical abled-ness than your own.
If you have a moment of self-doubt in accepting a role or an even just audition for a role, explore it. Don’t ignore it. If you have to question how comfortable you feel telling that character’s story, maybe you should have that conversation with the creative team.
...that no POC/PWD/TGNC actors auditioned anyway? ▿
...that actors pretend for a living? ▿
Absolutely. We dress up and play pretend as a job. So why should we limit ourselves with regards to who we pretend to be? Why should we tell some stories and not others? Shouldn’t a great actor be able to transform into anyone? Totally. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea. And you already experience this all the time.
You probably know what your “type” is already. If you’re getting callbacks for Shylock this season, Hollywood is probably not going to call you to play Batman in the next reboot. That doesn’t mean that you’re not talented enough to deliver Batman’s scenes with truthful feeling and smart choices. You most certainly could. But could and should are not the same. You get that. You get how type impacts how we tell stories.
You know that two nearly identical actors could walk into a room–the same height and build, the same hair and eyes and skin tone, even the same outfit–and bring two totally different attitudes into the room with them. That attitude, that vibe, that essence has just as much to do with your type as your physical appearance. Where does that essence come from? Lots of places, for sure.
Realize there is another layer to your type beyond your physical appearance, your general vibe, and personality. Your type also includes all of your lived experiences. You carry them with you always. They may be invisible to you, and you may not even be aware of how they influence you. But they are there. And they are just as relevant as your type in how they impact the way you tell stories.
“In response to the common comment ‘it’s called acting’ – people largely accept that a certain authenticity of performance comes from drawing on lived, felt experience,” Shinn said. “For example, Mark Wahlberg has often played violent characters, so it’s not a surprise when you look into his personal history and discover that he was sentenced to two years in jail for assault when he was younger.”“The fact is, actors do more than ‘act,’ they draw on who they are to create real and compelling people. To act is really to mix acting and being,”
“The “it’s called acting” claim is, make no mistake about it, an argument for the status quo, for tradition, for the denial of opportunity, for erasing race. It expresses the thinking that gives awards to people who pretend to be disabled on stage and screen, while making it difficult for people with disabilities to attend cultural events, let alone be a participant in creating them. It is the mentality that loves West Side Story, but cries foul when songs sung by characters who speak Spanish are translated into and performed in Spanish.
“It’s called acting” is the response of those who perceive their long-held dominance, their tradition, as threatened, their own position as being at risk. “It’s called acting” sustains systemic exclusion. After all, as the saying goes, “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality looks like oppression.” Privilege abounds in the arts, on stage, backstage and in the seats.”
...to cash a paycheck? ▿
We get it. We’re all actors here. Most of us are broke all the time. We all need the work. We all need the money. And at a certain point, we’re all talented and amazing storytellers. So we all want the part.
But take a minute. Think about all the parts you would be considered for by an average regional theater company with average middle-American conceptions of traditional casting. Make a list of those roles. Include roles you’ve actually had callbacks for. How long is that list?
Now. Try making that list again but try imagining that you’re an actor of color this time. How about a trans actor? An actor with a disability? What roles do you think they get callbacks for? Does that change your list?
It’s a shorter list, isn’t it?
Do you still feel like you need that job bad enough? Does an actor of color, a transgender actor, or an actor with a disability need that job more than you do? Do you still feel ok taking that job?
We know what we’re asking is big. We’re asking you to turn down a job. And yes, it may sully your rep at a theatre, yes they may hesitate to hire you in the future. But there’s a whole country out there full of theaters that will hire you. And turning down just one job can make a HUGE impact. It can make a huge impact on the life of a colleague. It can make a huge impact on the thought process of a creative team or a casting professional. Is that worth more than a paycheck? We think so.
“Look at it this way: Take two children. One of them has 1,000 action figures, while the other has just one. If you take a single figure away from that first child, it is possible, if not probable, that he or she won’t even notice it’s gone. And even if he or she did complain, any sane person would explain to that child the virtues of sharing, of generosity.
Now, if you turned to that child with the solitary toy and tried to take it away, that child would be devastated. That toy might well be his or her lifeline to imagination, to hope, to the idea that play could unlock something within that he or her didn’t even know existed.
If we all can agree that representation matters, then white people are impossibly well represented — while seeing an Asian face in the movies is bordering on the impossible. And apparently it’s getting more impossible every day.”
...that I don’t have to disclose my background? ▿
Yep. Legally, in any kind of job interview (which an audition is), no one can ask you about your age, sex, gender expression, ethnic or racial background. It’s literally against the law.
It’s a federal law. Do you know why that law exists or when it was enacted?
Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on race, color, age, sex, or national origin. The other components of this revolutionary piece of legislation desegregated institutions of all kinds here in the US of A and guaranteed equal voting rights to all people (among other important things).
So yes, the letter of this law is that nobody has to disclose anything about their background in any kind of job interview. But what do you think the spirit of this law was intended to do? It seems that it was intended to ensure that members of underrepresented groups not usually given equal opportunities would be guaranteed a chance. Right?
So, do you think this law was intended to provide plausible deniability for white actors to portray characters of color? For cis actors to play trans characters? Or was this law intended to provide more opportunities for employment to people from underrepresented groups in all fields?
Just consider that this law was intended to level the playing field before you use it to shield yourself from responsibility. Consider how leaders of the Civil Rights Movement would feel to know that actors use the laws they fought for as carte blanche to knowingly take job opportunities from underrepresented groups. People fought and died to pass this landmark protective legislation. How will you honor the work they did for equality?
...that I’m just one person and it doesn’t matter what I do? ▿
What’s the point of it all? You’re just one actor. If you turn down a role it doesn’t mean they’re going to take the time to find an actor who can more authentically tell the story. What if they turn around and offer it to someone with the same background as you?
But think about it. If a casting professional or a creative team reaches out to you about a role and you respond in a thoughtful, respectful way that you wouldn’t feel right telling that story because of your background and experiences, they’re going to have to take a minute to think about why. That’s a much bigger impact that you may realize. See how easy being an ally is?
And just imagine! If at the next open call for Evita only actors who self-identity as Latin-American walk in, then the casting professionals and creatives have no excuse. We’ve taken the power into our own hands.
You’re not just one actor. You’re one aware and awesome ally. And all of us together can make a huge change.
Further Reading: “So, when white British actor Ed Skrein publicly announced on Monday that he was bowing out of playing a Japanese American character in the upcoming Hellboy reboot, he broke rank in an admirable way.
In a shocking departure from past actors who faced similar critiques, Skrein not only stepped down from the role, he tweeted a moral case for inclusive casting. Skrein wrote, “It is clear that representing this character in a culturally accurate way holds significance for people, and that to neglect this responsibility would continue a worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voices in the arts,” adding, “It is our responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and to give voice to inclusivity.”
I applaud Skrein for making the right choice—and I hope the powers that be in Hollywood are paying attention. Hollywood has a long history of whitewashing characters of color. From 1930 to 1956, Hollywood studios formally barred actors of color from most film leads through an anti-miscegenation clause in the Hays Code that banned depictions of interracial relationships. As a result, actors of color were systemically excluded from lead roles and prevented from achieving stardom.
In response to Skrein’s actions, the producers of Hellboy publicly committed to recasting his role “with an actor more consistent with the character in the source material.” Skrein’s decision has further made whitewashing a moral issue in the public eye, and it is now up to the Hollywood industry to answer his plea to “make equal representation in the arts a reality.”
...that this isn’t black & white? ▿
You are absolutely right. It isn’t black and white. Far from it.
There are many blurred lines concerning which ethnic and racial stories an actor feels able to authentically tell. You may identify as multi-ethnic. Does that mean you can only tell the stories of one of your ethnicities and not the other? And how specific should you be? Can you play a Turkish character even though you identify as Greek? And who gets to make that decision?
No one can tell you what you “can” or “cannot” play. Only you know how your identity feels in the context of a certain piece of storytelling. So you have to decide for yourself. We just ask that you take the time to make those choices thoughtfully and aware of the larger impact your choices can have.
...to tell this specific story? ▿
If you came here hoping for a flow chart, checklist, or questionnaire that would help you decide exactly who’s stories you “can” or “cannot” tell, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. We’re not here to tell you what to do. We’re not here to judge. We’re not smarter than you. We don’t have any stamps of approval to hand out.
We don’t know who you are. You might not either. Maybe you’re still be figuring that out. Which is totally cool. So clearly we can’t tell you what’s ok and what’s not. Only you can figure out who’s stories you feel right telling.
We know some of you have particularly weird and tough cases to decide. I’ve seen some doozies. We’re actually collecting your best and most ridiculous stories to build an archive where we can all laugh with each other about embarrassing moments from our past. You can see them in our Remorse Report. Feel free to share you own as well.
As we’ve said, we think it’s best if we only make decisions for ourselves, but we made up a couple of hypothetical imaginary people and pretended to think through a scenario as each of them as an example of the sorts of questions we want actors to ask themselves. YAY imagination time! ;)
OK. So. Let’s say I’m a female triple threat who was raised in a first-generation, lower-class Filipino family in an urban center. Let’s say I get an email for an appointment for Anita. I would consider the fact that my own ethnic background is rooted in a group of people who were colonized and marginalized (actually by the same Spaniards in boats as native populations in Puerto Rico!). I would think about my upbringing in an urban and lower-class neighborhood. Considering those lived experiences, I think I would feel comfortable accepting the audition.
NOW. Let’s try again as someone else. This time I’m the same fierce female triple threat but this time let’s say I grew up in a suburban middle-class neighborhood raised by a 1st generation Greek father and a good-old-fashioned-blue-blooded American (let’s say of English and German ethnic background) mother. I have naturally dark hair and eyes. My skin has olive undertones and tans very dark in summer. I get the same appointment for Anita. I consider the fact that my ethnic background comes from the side of global colonial history that mostly did the colonizing. I acknowledge the fact that my lived experiences have mostly been of that of privilege. I struggle because I know I would kick the shit out of the part. I struggle because people have thought I was Latina before. I struggle because I even speak a little Spanish. But ultimately I decide that maybe I should let someone else have a chance who might bring a more similar lived experience to the story. EVEN if they might not kick as high as I do.
It’s ok to be sad to pass up the chance at a role you that know you would kill. It’s ok to feel guilty for a role you played. It’s even ok to disagree on who is right for what roles. Again. We’re not saying these are the only “right” decisions for these imaginary kick ass women. We’re just saying that if we were in their shoes, these are the questions we would ask ourselves and the decisions we might make. We want to make sure you take the time to make a thoughtful and aware decision for yourself, too because only you can decide what feels right for you.
...that it’s ok because I ‘pass’ for [ethnicity] in real life anyway? ▿
...that we should all just strive to be colorblind? ▿
...that the best actor should just get the job? ▿
Sure. Ideally, the best actor should always get the job. But in your experience, how often is that true? How many times have you been frustrated when you lost a part to a colleague you know you may be “better” than because they were, taller/shorter/friends with the director/willing to work for less money/whatever other factors that had nothing to do with talent or skills? I’m pretty sure every actor knows that talent is never the only factor at play when casting is making decisions.
That argument that we should “just let the bast actor get the job” is thus a disingenuous call for a pure meritocracy. It’s the argument regardless of race we must protect and advocate for the integrity of the art. That argument is this: a part should go to the best actor for the role.
So let’s define “best.” Best as in most qualified? The person with the most credits? That’s not a great measurement.
We could measure best by technical measurements—height, singing ability, body type, etc.
Let’s go with this: The best actor is the one who best fits what the creative team wants.
So “best” is completely subjective and defined case by case by a creative team. And who are casting teams? What do they usually look like? Who are the people they know and love and have worked with most often in the past? What sort of unconscious biases do they bring into the room with them when they are looking for what they deem to be the “best” actor for the part?
Consider who might be deemed “best” for the part if people on the other side of the table looked more like the characters they were casting.
...that it’s not my fault? ▿
Yes. You’re right. It’s not your fault that a casting director called your agent or emailed you to offer you an audition or a contract–unless of course you’ve actively pursued the role.
But simply “leaving it up to casting” isn’t fair to casting. You’re asking them to complete a very difficult task and you’re asking them to do it while blindfolded since they are legally not allowed to ask you about how you self-identify.
So yes, you are free to put all the blame on casting and take no responsibility on yourself to fix the problems in representation on stage and screen. But if you really care about fixing the problem, why wouldn’t you want to help fix it?
If you hire a plumber and take away his wrench can you blame him entirely when he cannot fix a leak? Or do you need to realize that perhaps you are part of the reason he can’t do his job? How much longer will it take to fix the problem if you continue to place all the blame on him? Do you shrug and wait for him to go out and find an alternative tool? Or do you offer your personal resources to help fix the problem quicker together?
Sure you can shrug and blame casting and continue to be complicit in their bad practices. Or you can decide to help them solve the problem by choosing to stop enabling their bad practices–even though it’s not your fault.
...that it’s just entertainment and everyone is taking it too seriously? ▿
...that it’s not fair? ▿
Asking you to turn down a job may feel like a huge sacrifice. It may feel insanely unfair. It’s cliche but it’s true: Life isn’t fair. We’ve probably all heard this pretty frequently from a pretty early age. And for some of us, life can be a little more unfair than for others. But, yes. There are things that happen in everyone’s life that aren’t fair. And that sucks. No matter who you are.
So let’s think a little bit about the “fairness” of the situation. We’re saying that maybe everyone shouldn’t go to every single audition. Or accept every single callback. Or sign every single contract. We’re saying that everyone should think about how those choices affect their colleagues from underrepresented groups. And Maybe you feel like that’s unfair to ask you to consider turning down opportunities for work.
So imagine this analogy: imagine a big barrel of M&Ms. All those M&Ms are the roles available to white/cis/able-bodied actors (either because the character is specified as white/cis/able-bodied, OR because those characteristics are not specified yet companies have–for the vast majority of theater history–overwhelmingly cast with white/cis/able-bodied actors by default, such as Rodgers & Hammerstein heroes, Lerner & Lowe, Mary Poppins, etc).
Now imagine an 8-ounce glass of M&Ms. Those M&Ms are the characters that are specifically written as people of color, transgender, or people with disabilities.
If a theater does non-traditional, color-blind/color-conscious casting (i.e. giving actors from underrepresented groups roles that normally go to white/cis/able-bodied actors), that’s like taking a handful of those M&Ms from the big barrel and putting it in the glass. It does not appreciably reduce the amount in the big barrel, but it does raise the percentage in the glass significantly. Suddenly there are a much larger number of opportunities for actors from underrepresented groups without making too much of a difference in the number of opportunities for white/cis/able-bodied actors.
BUT if you cast characters written SPECIFICALLY as people of color, people with disabilities or transgender with white/cis/able-bodied actors, that’s like taking a handful of M&Ms from the little glass and putting them in the big barrel. It makes the already smaller number of opportunities for actors from those underrepresented groups even smaller. And yes, it may provide some white/cis/able-bodied actors with more opportunities, but if you compare the number of M&Ms in the barrel vs. the number of M&Ms in the glass, do you still think that it’s the most important argument for the sake of fairness to take M&Ms from the glass and put them in the barrel?
Just because something ‘has always been done’ does not make it fair. Just because we’re asking you to help change the status quo does not mean you’re going to be treated unfairly.
And before you bring up Hamilton and say that we “can’t have it both ways” having actors of color playing real historical figures who were white while also demanding that Eva Peron be played by a Latinx actor, check out some statistics on representation or on hiring biases in theaters across the country. Look at lists of the highest paid actors and see that they are pretty much all cis/white/non-disabled. And also realize that Hamilton isn’t “colorblind” casting. It’s incredibly color conscious. Having people descended of the colonized take on the roles of those who colonized their ancestors is a very intentional and artistic choice to reveal deeper meanings about what it means to be an American. So that color conscious casting is hardly analogous to hiring white actors who are descended of the colonizers to portray people of color who suffered under their ancestors.
Hamilton rant over.
The point is, the playing field isn’t level to begin with. So asking you to give up a job is a sacrifice, yes. But it’s a sacrifice that will help to make our industry more fair overall.
You are a human first. If you see something unfair, if you witness inequality or injustice, do something about it. Whatever you can. Whenever you can. That’s being an ally.
“If you’re not willing to sacrifice investments—both personal and professional— that conflict with the values you promote, you’re not an ally. Wearing safety pins and applying photo filters are not acts of solidarity. They’re merely ways for you to publicly signify your (performative) allyship, rather than do meaningful labor.”
“Equality can feel like oppression. But it’s not. What you’re feeling is just the discomfort of losing a little bit of your privilege.”
...to be scared? ▿
Yes. Absolutely. Starting a conversation with anyone about this stuff is tricky to begin with, even with a trusted friend. Let alone starting a conversation about this stuff with a casting professional or a creative team that holds a potential job for you in their hand. Totally scary. We agree. It’s ok to be scared.
Just remember, you’re an actor. You’re naturally a badass. You choose to get up in front of people for a living. Did you know that more people are afraid of public speaking than of dying? Most people at a funeral would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy.
You are way braver than you realize. You can do this. And together we can make huge change. So take a deep breath, be your brave awesome ally self and have a productive conversation.
...that it’s too late? ▿
Maybe you have a role on resume that you’re reconsidering your feelings about. Maybe you have a history of playing roles from a different background from your truest authentic self. Maybe you’re just realizing that. It’s ok. It doesn’t mean you can never be an ally. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Far from it.
You’ve already taken a huge first step by just being here and thinking about it. Thanks.
It’s never too late. Every time you choose whether or not to go to an audition, accept a callback, or sign a contract, you have a new chance to be an ally. Make today a new day to flex your awesome ally powers.
“The British actor and rapper Ed Skrein was slated to play Major Ben Daimio in the Hellboy movie reboot, a character of Japanese heritage in the original comic books. But following a backlash online, Skrein, who has no Asian blood whatsoever, withdrew from the film “so the role can be cast appropriately."Skrein is setting an example other actors should follow. I f only more people in the industry had his integrity, courage and common humanity.“
“Last night I had to do something I tell people to do all the time, but have had to do very little of myself: said no to an audition upon reading the script, and finding it whitewashed and misogynist.
I am here to tell you IT. FELT. AWFUL.
I am not an actor that gets tons of auditions. At the moment I’m unrepresented for legit, and auditions mostly come through recommendation - it’s rare that I get called in from self-submits. This was for a feature film, on a full SAG salary and would have involved travel if I had booked it (one of my favorite things in the world). But they sent me the script and it was completely incongruous with what I preach here at CastAndLoose, and what I stand for as a woman, a human, and an advocate. It was scary, and I’m going to spend all weekend probably doubting that I did the right thing.
But we can do it. We can say no. It may not feel good and you may question yourself every step of the way but if your gut says no, say no.”
...to feel attacked? ▿
Isn’t it discriminatory to ask cis/white/able-bodied actors to limit themselves? Isn’t that reverse racism? Isn’t that discrimination?
Reflecting on your own privilege is hard. We know. We’re not saying this part is easy at first. If this is the first time you’re contemplating these ideas, try starting here:
It’s ok if it hurts. But take a minute. Embrace the hurt and frustration you’re experiencing as you acknowledge your privilege. Feel it.
Now practice a little bit of your actorly compassion to imagine the hurt of a lifelong struggle against a systematic obstacles and a lack of opportunities.
How do the two compare? Still feeling like you’re being treated unfairly? Maybe not? You’ve just taken a huge step to being an awesome and aware ally. Thanks. Truly.
...to want to do more? ▿
We sure think so! And thanks for getting on board! We’re just a small word-of-mouth project. We think the best way to help is to talk about it. Here are some ideas:
Request some of our super cool free mirror cards to help spread the word about our mission!
Next time you are approached about a part you wouldn’t feel comfortable playing, start a conversation with the casting professional or creative team.
Next time a friend or colleague is pursuing a role that you’re not sure they would be the best fit for, start a conversation.
Share our site within your professional and social networks. Use what we’ve written here as a tool. We’re here as a resource to hopefully make a tricky topic a little easier to think about.
Reach out to us. We’re happy to talk and we’re happy to help you talk to others if you need some help finding the right way to say something.
Also, consider advocating for a theater near you to produce work written for and/or by people of color, people with disabilities and transgender people. Consider advocating for non-traditional and color-conscious casting. That’s some serious ally awesomeness.