Sometimes I wonder, when watching a film -- particularly one in which a black actor plays a stupid
ridiculous, embarrassing, or otherwise buffoonish character -- how it came to be that the black actor I’m looking at, ended up in this film.
Did the actor choose this role -– and reject others -- believing it would be a good role for him to play? Is it possible that the actor was ignorant to the meaning of the role and didn’t see what was ultimately an intrinsically bad choice?
Did the actor know full well the ramifications of accepting a sub-par role yet had no compunction about what the choice represented? This is the
fraud actor uncommitted to his craft who, because he’s driven solely by monetary reward, opting for the money.
Is it that there are so few roles available, the actor thought it prudent to accept this role thinking, “If not this one, which one? When will the next one come along? What if the next one is bad, too? Let me go ahead and get while the getting is good.” Conversely, the actor may figure there will be other roles... other greater roles in the future. But right now, I need exposure… and dough.”
When black actors accept third-rate roles, I wonder if they hate themselves. I think sometimes they must.
What does one do? Do you accept what is available so that you can keep working, keep benefitting from exposure, keep earning an income and keep building your resume? Do you wait for an ideal role, one which will have the other 19,758 black actors
killing reading for it? Or do you stand up for principles?
It’s hardly my place to opine as to what an actor should do. But I think the scenario of this conundrum plays out all day in black Hollywood. I suppose there’s a case for each path. I wonder how many careers shine or dull due to this fork in the road.
Some people say, “So-and-so had to take the part. He’s gotta eat.” If I hear this one more time I’m going to scream.
I doubt this is about eating -- or surviving -- or paying rent. In the end, when the contract is signed, it is about choice. Maybe even about greed. Maybe about hunger… for fame. In today’s popular culture, we see the lengths people will go to merely to achieve fame. Flavor of Love and Jerry Springer come to mind. Let’s call a spade a spade. It is a choice. Granted, the choice may be governed by certain considerations but to simplify the matter into the need to eat is fallacy.
For a struggling actor the allure of a crappy role is understandable. Let’s face it, if you’re broke actor and someone offers you $10,000 or $20,000 or $40,000 to (i) continue typecasting you, (ii) buy your participation in a role unworthy of your talent, or (3) cast you in a wretched role, you’ll probably do it, most of the time, anyway. This is human nature.
But people can eat and act without accepting degrading roles. It seems that if a person is earning a reasonable salary as an actor, they need not choose degrading or unworthy roles. For example, Halle Berry. Halle Berry is an internationally known movie star and a multimillionaire. So, for her –- and other A-list black actors – (or even b or c list) acceptance of a derogatory role would be reprehensible and inexcusable.
I mean, really, is there ever a starving actor??? This cliché is repeated so much, I think people are starting to believe it. I doubt there are really any starving actors.
There are struggling actors, though.
There are black actors struggling with choices… and lack of offerings… and racism… and injustice… and unfairness… and issues of consciousness… and what must be fierce competition since there are so many vying for scarce –- and so, coveted -– roles. Black motion picture actors (particularly, those who really care about creating good works) are faced with a myriad of daunting challenges.
Who’s to blame? Whose responsibility is it to secure good roles for the actor? (Of course, the actor can only “pick” good roles if he or she is offered the role or the opportunity to read for the role in the first place.) The agent? The actor? Whose fault is it when an actor performs in a role that damages his career? I don’t know how it works but ultimately it comes down to the actor’s choice… the person’s choice.