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Posts tagged "Hollywood"
  • Maggie Q: We know what it’s like. We know how that box exists. It’s very real. (Turns to Mekhi) I’m sure you were offered every drug dealer and every pimp role.
  • Mehki Phifer: Oh yeah, of course. You’ve got to say no. You’ve got to turn it down!
  • MQ: The only power you have is to walk away. You can sit around all day long and whine about what you’re not getting, but it’s not about what you’re not getting; it’s about what you’re not taking. For me, as an Asian American, I’m looking for roles that are non ethnic-specific. If you come to me and you’re like, “Can you play this flower girl on this boat?,” the finger goes up really fast. The blood boils really quickly. Sure, I or any Asian girl could play that role. If you’re doing a story on history or whatever, that’s totally valid. When you get roles that are stereotypical and do not push our cause or further our image in media and in entertainment, it’s your responsibility to turn those things down. I’m not saying that from the position of, “I’ve earned enough so that I can say no.” I’ve said no to things when I had no money.
  • MP: Absolutely.
  • MQ: It wasn’t about that. It was about the big picture. Where do I want to go with this? Do I want to make that amount of money for the next six months, and then what? It goes away, and I’d have no further career beyond that. Or, do I want to make smart decisions that are going to change the face of my community?
  • Read the full interview at the source linked above!




I admit, I don’t know Cho that well, so I am glad there are other readings to be had!

And if he is just calling it out simply because he’s tired of it and he feels comfortable doing so even on his own films now, I think that’s fantastic. There’s certainly plenty for him to be calling out.

Heh. Well, I don’t know John Cho either. But he has talked about race & representation before* (and not in a ‘we’re all human, it doesn’t matter’ way), so it’s not completely ‘out of character’ for him to bring it up. I think it probably would be easier on him if he didn’t say anything, but I’m glad he does.

*Re Harold & Kumar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHEkLBZI1IM 4:07 mark): If you have a Korean and an Indian guy as your leads, you must address race at some point in the movie. You must, because the audience is noting it, really. The other thing is, I think, comedy at its best, treads in taboo waters a little bit. It has to have that transgressive quality to it, and race is the biggest taboo in America. I mean, people are very reluctant to talk about race and yet when you do jokes about race, uh, that work, people are very happy to release tension and laugh about it. But it has been interesting. I’ll make an observation. During the first tour for the first movie, we were talking about race all the time with journalists. It was almost like a process— looking back, the first movie was more concerned with race, but we talked about it so much, I felt that it was in a way…a way of justifying our presence in a motion picture.

And from an interview in 2009 http://www.asiaarts.ucla.edu/090703/article.asp?parentID=110145&gt:

JC: I recall from the Harold and Kumar movies is my struggle with the advertisers.

APA: What happened there?

JC: There was all this racial humor in the movie, and the advertising department wanted to say “Starring the Asian guy in American Pie, and the Indian guy from Van Wilder…” and they did go with that, and they submitted that to me for approval, and I said, “I don’t like it.” They asked me why, and I explain it to them, and that was tricky because it’s difficult explaining to my own representatives, why that didn’t jibe with me, because everyone kind of felt like it was keeping in tone with the movie. And I said, “I don’t like it. We’re poking fun at racism in the movie all the time, but it puts the audience on the wrong side of the racism joke.” So they were playing with the wording a little bit in the edits, and they kept coming up with versions to make me happy, but they were essentially the same thing, and I finally said, “you are not going to make me happy. You’re dancing around it, and you’re clearly attached to this idea, and I want you to know that no version of this idea will make me happy. And if you’re afraid that I won’t show up to do promotion because of this bitterness, you can rest assured that that’s not true. I consider promoting a movie part of my duties, and I will show up nevertheless. But you can either use this campaign and know that I’m unhappy, or you can change it and know that I’m happy. That’s it. Stop trying.” And eventually they went with it, and it’s one of those things where I look back and I’ve very proud of the movie, but that’s the thing I remember.

APA: Last question…for Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, Viva La Union recorded a song for the soundtrack with the line, “I want my own Chinese baby” — what’s that about?

JC: When I was thinking about it, I thought of a literal baby. There’s a kind of lack that children fill, that’s just the dark side of being a parent, I think. And there’s an accessory quality to Chinese babies in America, and I just think it’s funny. I just liked it. And you know, I would know people who would fawn over Asian babies more, and it got me to thinking, there’s this belief that Asian babies are really cute, and it got me thinking that our whole race is infantilized to some degree, and it manifests itself in different ways. You infantilize a woman, and she becomes eroticized. You infantilize a man, and he becomes emasculated. You infantilize a baby [laughs] — and it’s possible, it appears that you can infantilize a baby even more. [laughs] The babies need to be cuter than white babies. And it’s just a weird thing that I felt like said something about mainstream America’s relationship to Asians in general. So that’s where it came from.

Also this interview: http://blog.angryasianman.com/2008/04/q-with-john-cho.html

“And yes, I do feel a responsibility, and always have, and it’s been an odd burden for me. Even when I started and no one gave a shit, I was trying to avoid doing roles—and it’s no accident that I’ve never done something with a chop suey accent. It’s no accident that I’ve never played those parts. I strongly believe there are a lot of Asian American actors who think that that’s the price to pay before you get to wherever you’re going. And I take real issue with that. Because you have to maintain integrity from the start, and on a personal level, you have to not do something that’s going to make you sick to your stomach.

But on a political level, how are things supposed to ever change if there’s someone willing to do it? I can tell you now, having worked in the business, that you can gather an army of people to hold picket signs and stand outside the studio, and say, “we destest this portrayal”… but it doesn’t matter if there’s a guy—who they know, a peer—who’s willing to do it, who stands in front of the crew and does the buck-tooth accent. If he or she is willing to do it, it makes the protestors look like extremists. It makes this guy look like the normal guy. Because we all work in the same industry. So the willingness of one actor negates a thousand protestors and a thousand angry letters.”

(So I can see why Butawhiteman Cantbekhan playing Khan would be deeply upsetting to him, even if Cho wasn’t in this movie.)

I love him 1000 times just for flawlessly articulating this racist absurdity in the most succinct and accurate way I’ve ever encountered.

Once more, into your weekend…John Cho.

(via so-treu)

Not saying Quvenzhané’s name is an attempt, consciously or unconsciously, to step around and contain her blackness. Yes, sometimes black people have names that are difficult to pronounce. There aren’t many people of European descent named Shaniqua or Jamal. Names are as big a cultural marker as brown skin and kinky hair, and there’s long been backlash against both of those things (see: perms, skin bleaching creams, etc.). The insistence on not using Quvenzhané’s name is an extension of that “why aren’t you white?” backlash.

It is easier to be colorblind, to simply turn a blind eye to the differences that have torn this nation apart for centuries than it is to wade through those choppy waters. And Quvenzhané’s very existence is enough to make the societal majority uncomfortable. She is talented, successful, beautiful, happy, loved, and adored–all things that many people don’t figure that little black girls with “black” names could, or should, be. Their answer? Let’s make her more palatable. If she insists on not fitting the mold of the ghetto hoodrat associated with women with “urban” names, let’s take her own urban name away from her.

Refusing to learn how to pronounce Quvenzhané’s name says, pointedly, you are not worth the effort. The problem is not that she has an unpronounceable name, because she doesn’t. The problem is that white Hollywood, from Ryan Seacrest and his homies to the AP reporter who decided to call her “Annie” rather than her real name, doesn’t deem her as important as, say, Renee Zellwegger, or Zach Galifinakis, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, all of whom have names that are difficult to pronounce–but they manage. The message sent is this: you, young, black, female child, are not worth the time and energy it will take me to learn to spell and pronounce your name. You will be who and what I want you to be; you be be who and what makes me more comfortable. I will allow you to exist and acknowledge that existence, but only on my terms.

Brokey McPoverty, “What’s In A Name? Kind Of A Lot,” PostBourgie 2/26/13

Perhaps it doesn’t seem like the biggest of deals, but our willingness to accept the casting of anyone with a tan as a
generic ethnic/exotic look is what got us Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl (A Mighty Heart), Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin (Iron Man 3), and Janina Gavankar as Luna Garza (True Blood). People of color aren’t as interchangeable as Hollywood would like us to believe, but Infinitely Polar Bear‘s casting calls prove that that belief has yet to successfully challenged.

Beck reminds us that this systematic problem in casting doesn’t boil down to the idea that all directors, producers, and casting directors are evil racists that need to be stopped. Yeah, something needs to be stopped, but it goes beyond shaking up the people making decisions. We need to shake up our school of thought. We need to stop finding excuses and loopholes for monochromatic casting, even if that means that I crawl through breakdowns every day with the sole purpose of publicly shaming those who deserve it. We need to stop defaulting to white.

Well, if you ever wondered about the mechanics of casting—and how Hollywood casting directors, producers, and directors miss the boat on casting people of color—Racialicious staffer Kendra James demystifies the process in a new column called “The Racialicious Casting Couch.” 


And then there is, of course, the pressure of being an Asian American actor when roles with some heft are few and far between and the backlash from a community starved for humanizing portrayals can be harsh. Early in his career, Yeun turned down an acting gig in Chicago because, as he put it, “they wanted me to play Long Duk Dong.” But, for actors that do play stereotypes, Yeun reserves his judgment.

“Honestly, if you could make that fun, and you can do it and you can make that your own and have fun doing it, then, God, by all means do it,” says Yeun. “I don’t personally want that character to represent us in terms of the fact that we’re American. We speak English. We pay taxes. We grew up in Michigan. So for me, it’s just I couldn’t do that honestly.”

Luckily for him, he’s landed a role that doesn’t compromise his principles, and he’s not about to squander it. “I just hope to kind of do right, you know? If it definitely forwards, you know, kind of like helps the Asian American male to really permeate throughout Hollywood, then I don’t know if I can take that torch, but I’d love to do anything I can to help that.” But in terms of his own career, says Yeun: “My biggest struggle is to never become that guy that got hired because they needed to cast this role Asian American. I don’t want to be that guy that got added just because he had to fill the look rather than the actual abilities.”

Read the full interview at KoreAM magazine!

Though Perry doesn’t know or care, I have been disturbed at his elevation by the mainstream as some storyteller of the black experience. And, if I am honest, I am none too pleased about his popularity within the black community either. It’s not that I don’t admire the brother’s hustle. I wish I had that kind of work ethic and mojo. But I am no fan of the Perry ethos. I think he makes black women’s lives harder, in particular, by reinforcing sexism and the centuries-old stereotypes the plague us. I wish a brother like Perry, with so much money and support behind him, could present a better case for black womanhood than the big, ball-busting granny and the embittered, work-obsessed, money-hungry bourgie chick who doesn’t know how to appreciate a good, blue collar man. Actually, his portrayal of blackness as a whole, to me, amounts to a combination of dysfunction, shucking and jiving and saccharine set to gospel music.

My views on Perry haven’t changed. He is never going to be my favorite director. But I realize the energy I have put into railing against his efforts is misdirected. And I realize that I am indulging in a form of respectability politics that is more hurtful than helpful.

My eyes were opened while writing an article, “No Disrespect: Black Women and the Burden of Respectability,” for Bitch magazine. Inspired by negative reaction to Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer’s portrayal of maids in The Help, I wrote about how the personal and professional choices of black women in the public eye are routinely judged through the perilously unflattering lens of the majority culture — Eurocentric, patriarchal, Judeo-Christian, heteronormative and middle class — and found wanting. Davis and Spencer (and Halle Berry and Erykah Badu and Beyonce) are not allowed to be simply women or performers, but, by dint of their blackness, are asked to serve as ambassadors whose every decision reinforces the respectability of black folks to white America. That means Davis and Spencer are criticized for playing domestic workers. Halle Berry is criticized for having graphic sex with a white man in Monster’s Ball. And Erykah Badu is judged for having children out of wedlock as Beyonce is praised for using her uterus “the right way.” That is how respectability politics work. And, in my article, I judge that extra burden as unfair and damaging.

I have, hypocritically, directed the same unfair expectations I abhor toward Tyler Perry and his career. I have expected him to be my ambassador, communicating my secular, feminist, middle class, progressive values to the masses. But he is not me. However disappointing I find his schtick, it is his. Perry has done the work and paid the price. And there is no doubt he believes he is doing what is best, not only for himself, but as a member of the black community. And there is this: For as much as I don’t identify with Perry’s output, there are plenty of black folks who see their lives reflected in his storytelling.

Tami Winfrey Harris, “Making Peace With Tyler Perry,” Clutch Magazine 9/6/12

Film bloggers got a bit abuzz last week at reports that an all-female spinoff of the Expendables franchise was being developed, with “several prominent actresses affiliated with the action genre” being contacted.

This being Hollywood, of course, don’t expect too much on the diversity front–heck, even seeing Jet Li as part of the crew in Sylvester Stallone’s original ensemble and Yu Nan and Terry Crews in the sequel–is about as good as we’re probably going to get in that series.

But here at Chromatic Casting, we know we can do better. And so we’ll give it a shot under the cut.

Keeping in mind that this series basically involves anthropomorphic tropes as characters, we won’t get too deep with the descriptions, but we’ll slot folks into some archetypal roles for the protagonist team, with the villains being a bit more fluid.

Arturo García just couldn’t resist chromatic casting the hyped-up all-female Expendables flick, and I think he chose well. Check out the (imagined) cast on the R today!

If Tony Scott had a muse it was Denzel Washington, who starred in many of the director’s best films. More often than not, Washington portrayed a guy who did his job even when circumstances called for extreme measures, someone who stepped up when the life he saved would not be his own. “Crimson Tide,” “Man on Fire,” “Déjà Vu,” “The Taking of Pelham 123,” and “Unstoppable” were all anchored by rugged individualists who understood only too well the cause and effect that came with any decisive action.

He was at his best when Washington was in the picture. The characters the actor played are the archetype of the kind of men Scott made. At their core, and what guided all the actions that followed, was a fundamental decency. They were flawed men to be sure, some more than others, but men who accorded dignity to anyone who deserved it.

Washington and Scott would do five films together, but it was their collaboration on 2009’s “The Taking of Pelham 123” that remains my favorite. It is an extremely interior piece of acting by Washington. His subway dispatcher, weary and wrung out by his job, his life, becomes the perfect counterpoint to John Travolta’s crazed kidnapper. It’s impossible not to be mesmerized by Washington’s face in the film — it is where Scott kept the focus — and the reward is one of the most finely attenuated studies of a man in a moment of crisis as you can find in film.

Betsy Sharkey, “Tony Scott, A Man Of Action Who Brought Out The Best In His Men,” L.A. Times, 8/24/12

In a nutshell, here are my two cents ..

I’m not surprised that a movie is being made about Nina Simone without consulting her family or estate. Not one bit. We know this story all too well: The Help and Untitled Nelson and Winnie Mandela Biopic also moved ahead without consent from the source …

I’m also not surprised that the screenplay for the Nina Simone biopic wasn’t written by a black woman, and thus, per her daughter’s concerns, will use that as license to perpetuate inaccuracies.

And finally, though sadly, I’m not surprised that black women have busied themselves with the question of who will “play” the role of Nina Simone (Zoe Saldana vs. dark-skinned black actresses) rather than focus on the root cause of misrepresentation in Hollywood: the absence of a strong network of black writers, producers, and studios.

This is the only comment I will be making on this issue because it’s always the same story, but even more frustrating, always the same rhetoric about how white people are appropriating our stories. As a community, we’re not doing nearly enough writing to make white people’s overly simplistic, inaccurate, saviorist depictions of our lives irrelevant.

The hard truth is this: if we spent more time creating media instead of criticizing it, there’d be way more diversity in representation, and way more stories and perspectives to which white people can be more frequently held accountable.

Pushing for ownership of both the infrastructure and content that portrays our lived experiences–that is the crux of the issue; not just the politics of light- vs. dark-skinned actresses. So, whereas I am completely on board with calling out the colorism behind the biopic’s casting choices (and the harmful message that’s being sent to young, dark-skinned black girls everywhere by having a light-skinned woman play Nina Simone), there aren’t enough strong lead roles written for women of color in Hollywood for me to fairly tell Zoe Saldana, a hard-working, talented brown woman, to ”sit this one out.”

When will black women, LGBTI, Africans, everyone-that-has-been-screwed-over-by-Hollywood finally get it that we need more autonomy over our media? When will we begin militantly fighting for mainstream media’s accountability to not just the story but the storyteller?

Hmmm…I can see where Spectra is coming from in regards to the colorism debate concerning Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone in an upcoming biopic derailing the larger argument about Black people and other PoCs needing to own our own media. However, I can also see the debates that it isn’t as easy as it sounds and, in the meantime, our needing to continuing criticizing the Media Machine that continues to make possibly detrimental casting decisions…can’t we do both?

When I became an actress I quickly realize that the world liked their latinos to look Italian. Not like me. So I wasn’t going up for Latina parts. I was going up for African American parts. […] 
Regardless of the fact that I spoke the language better and understood the culture better, those [stereotypical latina] weren’t the parts that…I could take seriously. Suddenly you have to explain why I look how I look. And then it gets complicated. And nobody wants complicated.

Gina Torres | Black & Latino


When I became an actress I quickly realize that the world liked their latinos to look Italian. Not like me. So I wasn’t going up for Latina parts. I was going up for African American parts. […]

Regardless of the fact that I spoke the language better and understood the culture better, those [stereotypical latina] weren’t the parts that…I could take seriously. Suddenly you have to explain why I look how I look. And then it gets complicated. And nobody wants complicated.

Gina Torres | Black & Latino

(via racebending)