Why Does 'Colour' Matter

  • Anikka Forbes

    Actor

    I just thought I'd put it out there as a question that I keep asking myself when it comes to Casting Ads where majority of them on her simply request White or Caucasian females. I was just about to put myself forward for the Big Brother Casting Ad but unfortunately my 'Colour' doesn't fit. Why can't people just be cast for their Look, Style or Ability' rather than the colour of there skin!!! Because it's doesn't mean that because you are White, Black, Asian, Chinese, etc that you will do a better job...than another person of a different race, so the day 'Colour' is eliminated from the Acting world the more opportunities will become available for all ethnicities!!!!!!

    • 19th Aug 2012
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  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    Hi Annika....I'm not sure what you mean? Can you explain?

    • 13th Aug 2012
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  • Sam Lucas Smith

    Actor

    "Why can't people just be cast for their Look, Style or Ability' rather than the colour of there skin!!!"

    Your ethnicity is part of your look.

    Commercial castings tend to be specific in that regard and it won't change any time soon; with that in mind you'd be best off simply applying for roles that match your casting type.

    Non commercial work tends to offer a little more sway, but the fact is that look still plays a big part; there's no reason why that can't prove to be a good thing for you.

    • 13th Aug 2012
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  • Mark Lisseman

    Actor

    Hi Annika

    Sam's right. Skin colour is just something else 'on the list' - along with hair colour, hair length, eye colour, height, weight, age, etc, etc.. And like all of those, it can help you as well as hinder you. Find your niche, get pigeon-holed (i.e. maximise your advantage by finding out what other girls that look like you get cast as/in), and go from there!

    • 13th Aug 2012
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    As has been said, if this was a commercials/ident casting in particular, I would be especially wary of judging the attitude of the whole industry on the basis of it. Commercials casting are notoriously set in their ways about achieving *exactly* what the client demands, because the client is generally working very closely with an auteur director in order to get a highly specific composition placed on screen in order to promote the product. If there is any one section of the industry more likely to release briefs that read like these: 'Male, 35-40, Irish, must be native to Cork,', 'Female, 20-25, of African origin, good singing voice, will need to be capable of speaking non English language' etc., then I don't know what it is. Sometimes, commercials casters do go for broke and invite all and sundry in: very often, the next day or so they narrow the search criteria, and re-release the breakdown with greater specificity in response to client feedback. In short, it may actually matter to a commercials caster that you are a white female, and not a black female, because of something as arbitrary as the fact that their companion ident features a black male actor, and they want variety! Thankfully, you should find that most screen and theatre castings are more open to non-specific casting.

    • 13th Aug 2012
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  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    So did I read it right? Castings should be open to "all" colours or ethnicity?

    Hmmm.. Suppose the role "is" actually for the role of a white actress? When a casting says "black actress required" ....should that be changed to "any actress required" then?

    Anikka, I apologise if I have missed the point of your thread….but I think it takes the gold medal for daftest post of the week…and it's only Tuesday! Do correct me if I missed the point of what you meant, as I've probably misunderstood what you're trying to say.

    I think being specific on a casting brief, is much more favourable to those of us who have been asked or selected to attend the casting. At least we know we are in with a shout. Better that than the all too common "cattle call!" I hate attending castings in TV commercials when on arrival you find the role of "The man in the car" is being cast from those who are black and young and thin or fat, white and very old! Of course as Lee has mentioned….this is far more prevalent in commercial castings, so being specific, for me…is very good.

    On the other hand if you are saying…writers, casting and or directors should be more open to casting a black actress in the role….then so be it….you may have a point. If on the other hand….your CCP profile prevents you from applying for general "actress required" …then again you have a point, though I am not sure that is the case is it?

    Your initial post reads like it's a bit of a wine….and you are entitled to wine! However, as has also been mentioned…we are all pigeon holed one way or the other…..you being a black actress, could well work into your favour!

    Finally…with the greatest respect, I would also not place too much importance or compare CCP advertised castings/jobs to those in the wider spread general top line castings of the industry!

    • 14th Aug 2012
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  • User Deleted

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    I think Annika has a point. Of course there are some castings where the ethnicity of the character is absolutely integral, either to be suitable and believable for the time period/location; to fit the rest of that character's family; or if the script specifically deals with race issues.

    But on the other hand there are many roles where the ethnicity is not stated or implied in the script at all and that role could just as well be played by an actor of any ethnicity, but only white actresses are looked at. Face it, there is still a lot of racism (overt or not) in this world and race is an issue in this industry. I heard the Doctor Who casting director talking about this very issue not long ago, and he had some very insightful comments.

    Slate had a really good article about this recently:

    www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2012/07/casting_and_race_the_tricky_business_of_writing_casting_notices.html

    • 15th Aug 2012
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  • Dan Gregory

    Actor

    There has been progress in the last few years. Thirty years ago it was only co-op agencies who made the difference when women were considered for the parts of lawyers, doctors etc. Very few ethnic minorities were seen being "ordinary" people particularly in commercials until much more recently.

    It was great to see a black face in The Hollow Crown and remember black people have been here since the Romans not just the Windrush.

    When major black British actors still have to go to the USA for work it still remains a problem.

    I can play a Cuban in Cuba but here I don't "look" Hispanic enough when it comes to casting. How much worse would it be were I more easily pigeon holed?

    • 15th Aug 2012
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  • User Deleted

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    lol try being a native German (with a US passport to be fair) but keep getting told that "you don't look German (enough)"

    • 15th Aug 2012
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  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    This skin colour/ethnicity question is interesting. I've played several Russian/Eastern European roles even though my ethnicity is British (I mean Welsh/Irish, not Anglo-Saxon). I've been told several times that I look Russian, also Jewish. I should say that if I really do have a 'look', then I'm delighted.

    There are many more parts for black actresses in the theatre and in TV drama, where roles are mostly non-race-specific. In the National's production of Frankenstein, Frankenstein's dad was played by a black actor (if I remember rightly he had a West Indian accent too).

    • 15th Aug 2012
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    I got cast as an SS Nazi officer of 'Das Viking' division last week because I could speak German in the casting!

    Well,in fact I got a mate of mine (who is German)to translate the script excerpt & I went into the casting speaking German & got the part!

    It was a combination of look & speaking the language basically!

    Look can work for you as well & any commercial casting brief should be specific in character spec required including ethinicty.

    • 15th Aug 2012
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  • Nigel Peever

    Actor

    PS Congratulations on your recent casting in good black men and good black women by Lorna blackman.

    • 16th Aug 2012
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  • James Barnes

    Actor

    It's a very common but simple issue in terms of casting.

    The fact is, depending on which country you are in, most of what's on TV will normally be geared towards appealing to the native demographic of that country. Period.

    Indeed the criteria for a soap, film, commercial may lean towards appealing to a certain race, class or age but overall the majority of work will be geared towards the majority of a populace or at least the subject matters which are favoured most by a society.

    It's just part and parcel of this business and as others have said already, it can work to your advantage being pidgeon holed sometimes albeit "sometimes".

    The issue of colour in casting is quite ironic for me as I applied for a casting once which matched my skillset only to receive a reply from the employer stating that they actually head hunted me to begin with but then had to reconsider their choice as the Execs thought using a black man in the role may have been seen as politically incorrect.

    So in actual fact the issue of colour wasn't an issue but was then made into an issue because of all our society's issues.

    Soooo, where do we go from here.

    It is what it is, there's always another casting. :)

    • 16th Aug 2012
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  • User Deleted

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    Casting is casting. I am a redhead. I can't apply/won't be seen for blonde/brunette roles. I accept that. It's casting. Then when they want a redhead I'm in. That's the game. Casting.

    • 16th Aug 2012
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  • User Deleted

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    Doesn't mean there still isn't an awful lot of racism at play...

    • 16th Aug 2012
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  • Farah Sardar

    Actor

    Yep, my husband's asian & I've often thought he'd make a great Frankinstein.

    Awww no, just joking, love him really.

    • 17th Aug 2012
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  • Farah Sardar

    Actor

    I agree with Mandy, casting is casting.

    We all make our own opportunities.

    • 17th Aug 2012
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  • Jenni Sannia

    Actor

    Casting calls have nothing to do with racism. It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

    • 17th Aug 2012
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  • Dan Gregory

    Actor

    That's a very sweeping (it under the carpet) statement. Has it really changed that much in the years since this

    news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/2380493.stm ?

    Versatile white actors do not suffer type casting in the same way as minority groups do. I have even played a black American because the director didn't really understand Damon Runyon (or at least that is what I prefer to believe).

    What would be the chances of Farah being in an Ayckbourn?

    The rest of the world wants Idris Elba to be the next James Bond because he is so quintessentially British. Will that happen?

    I have just done a search of theatre seasons. Black faces are almost invisible on their posters outwith an actor in "Bouncers" and two studio shows in Oxford (?)

    Things are improving but of the programmes I watch only Eastenders, Holby, & Casualty seem to be avoiding stereotypes.

    I sincerely hope that the days are long gone when "Sorry we've made a double booking. The rooms have gone," were said when a mixed race touring company turned up, or when silence would fall on a provincial pub when we walked in together.

    But as for casting being the reason? Outwith hair, or cosmetic ads which want to show various treatments why would an Actor who is skilled enough for the part not be considered?

    • 17th Aug 2012
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  • User Deleted

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    Well, many, many top-level actors, directors and casting directors disagree and are on record as saying racism in the industry is a major issue - I'm not prepared to say, they're all wrong, unless I've fully researched all the facts and can support my opinion.

    Perhaps we are talking at cross-purposes. If a role requires an actor of a certain race for whatever reason, of course it is not racist. However if a role is written as race-blind and the CD decides to only see people of one ethnicity for it, that might be an issue. If a CD refuses to consider black actors for roles other than thugs or Hispanic actresses as anything other than maids, that is perpetuating damaging racist stereotypes.

    It's the difference between, only looking at Islamic-looking actors when casting a role of an Islamic terrorist, and saying Islamic-looking actors can ONLY play Islamic terrorists.

    Obviously some CCs do need to state ethnicity. But there are endemic attitudes and perceptions at play. There are productions like Frankenstein doing race-blind casting, or Doctor Who consistently portraying mixed-race relationships (and gay relationships) in a normalizing way that have been very successful - if those productions can do it, there's no reason more can't.

    • 17th Aug 2012
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