Five years ago I met an auditioned for one of the biggest managers in Hollywood. Before the audition we talked about the industry as it relates to Black actors and actresses and Hollywood’s production(or lack thereof) of Black films. What he said vastly opened my eyes about Black entertainment. And after hearing George Lucas talk about the struggle to get his new film Red Tails made last week on The Daily Show(watch the interview!) because there wasn’t enough white people in it , it brought back to life for me, that five year old conversation and the agony of knowing that certain perceptions and problems still exist when making Black movies.
During the time I was meeting with the aforementioned manager (who shall remain nameless), it was 2007 and the movie The Great Debaters was on it’s way into theaters on Christmas weekend. For those who don’t recall, The Great Debaters set in 1935, was a film directed by and starring Denzel Washington that was based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College in Texas. He inspires the students to form the school’s first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship. I asked him, “Why won’t studios make more Black films like this to give more Black actors like myself a chance to work in mainstream film?” His answer? “Don’t take this the wrong way, but Black people don’t want to see those kind of movies. The proof is in the ticket sales.”
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