Hollywood’s notion of diversity in casting for film and television has become quite amusing to me.
True, we see a lot more minorities on both the big and small screen; however, they tend to be cast in supporting roles such as wacky neighbors, sage-like laborers, and, more recently, tough authorities.
In the last few years, characters such as presidents, police chiefs, and school principals are repeatedly cast with minority actors. It’s as though Hollywood is saying, “See, we made the head honcho a minority. We’re racially diverse!”
Unfortunately, this rarely happens when the head honcho is the main character. Why? Because the true head honcho is the main character, whether s/he is an army general or a lowly private. Of course, there are exceptions to this trend; however, they are often given to a handful of A-list minorities.
Not only is this trend discriminatory, it is also predictable and boring. And worse, it often seems gratuitous. Diverse casting of secondary authoritative roles now lacks authenticity; I often feel embarrassed when I see it on-screen.
Some argue that minority actors are, nonetheless, appreciative that they have more opportunities. That is true and it’s great to see them embrace their demand and make the most of it. Don’t misunderstand: I am in no way suggesting that the trend be ended. Rather, I am suggesting that it be balanced out. Let’s have more black presidents as the main character. After all, isn’t that a bit more believable these days?
Here’s the solution I propose: as much as possible, ignore restrictions like race, gender, and age when casting. Unless the project absolutely necessitates that the character be of a certain orientation, ditch it during the casting process and see who captures the personality, energy and essence of the character best. Again, unless absolutely necessary, don’t include race, gender, age, etc. in the casting breakdown. See who shows up! And if it means you have to go back to the script and make some changes accordingly, then so be it. It’ll be worth knowing you have cast the best actor for the part.
***Addition to post: please check out this short video on Indiewire.com, which perfectly captures the issue I mention in this post – the moment of silence toward the end is priceless (thank you to my friend KJ for initially sharing the video with me!)