Am I Right… 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.
“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.”