Recently, we featured an article on the Art of Acting by Shauna Blaize, an actress, model and film producer. In the article, Shauna shared her perspective and the “reality” facing budding actors in the film industry. In today’s post, Shauna reflects on how type and often race play a part in casting choices and how she is showcasing her own abilities as an actor and a producer.
We all have a type and when casting directors look at us they see the girl next door, the sassy girl, the best friend, the leading lady, etc and quite frankly it may not be what you or your friends/family see when they look at you. But again we are not looking at our personalities or our inner essence; we are looking at ourselves with a critical eye, knowing the type we fit into and how we can sell that type. In other words how our type fits in with the need they are trying to fill.
Type has a few branches; it’s not only if you have straight or curly hair, if you wear glasses, or if you are short or tall or have a “look” that is more on the “businesswoman” side versus a “hippie chick.” It goes deeper than that. For instance I need to know that as a Black woman I will be viewed for certain roles. Roles such as the neck twisting/”around the way” type girl. If you want to go even deeper, I am a woman of mixed ethnicity and “light skinned” so I will be viewed as that “pretty light skinned chick” from the projects that is considered a “prize” because let’s be honest, I have a lighter complexion.
We look at Kerry Washington (Scandal) and recent Emmy winner Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder) and it seems that it’s all good for actresses of color but we are still quite far behind. These two women are only recently getting the recognition and the level of work they deserve but they have been in this business for quite some time. It is hard for female actors but doubly hard for those who are of color. The roles are very few and far between and you will find yourself bumping into the same group of Black (Chinese/Indian/ etc) actresses all the time. More often than not castings are very race specific; it’s not as open or blind as one would think. It is because of this that there are roles I most likely will never get to play-not because I am not capable but because I do not fit the “vision.” We still live in a world where Black women are still not quite seen as being “every woman.” There is still an inability to plug us into any role, to be a true representative on our screens of what our society looks like today.
Recently there was a big brouhaha on social media where people were passionately opposed to having a “Black Bond.” This was in reference to talks of Idris Elba possibly playing the iconic role of James Bond sometime in the future should Daniel Craig decide to leave the franchise. Turned out that the “talks” weren’t serious but it created quite a stir. Michael B. Jordan also received backlash for playing “Johnny Storm” in the Fantastic Four movie that came out this year. Kate Mara a Caucasian actress played his sister and sadly it never occurred to some that it actually possible for two people of different races to be raised as brother and sister, especially in 2015 when we have all types of family make ups. It also didn’t occur to them that these characters are fictional so if we were ever to blind cast, this would be the time.
Then we have the flip side of this; an example is this year’s movie Aloha, where Caucasian actress Emma Stone played a woman who was supposed to be a quarter Chinese and a quarter Hawaiian when in fact she is neither. Exodus (2014) cast Caucasian actors to portray ancient Egyptian roles. Angelina Jolie played a bi-racial woman in A Mighty Heart (2007) and the list goes on. So even if we actresses of color want to stay in our lane and stick to the roles that are race specific, there are still roadblocks.
I don’t point these things out to discourage you from the business but I want you to go in with your eyes wide open.
Most actors, if not financially well off or extremely well connected have the same struggles across the board such as being broke and looking for paying work or representation but there are struggles that will be very specific to you. Hopefully as a sales person, as a business savvy actor/tress you will know what your strengths are and you will play off of them. You will know what roles you will most likely be seen for and you will hone those roles. You will also figure out on those occasions when you get seen for a role that is NOT race specific, how to be every woman/man and if questioned by casting you will know how to talk to them to let them know, what time it is and how you reflect the world today. In other words sell yourself. You will also be able to think outside the box.
Because work is so limited for myself as a Black actress I decided to write my own films and SHOW people what a Black girl can be and do.
Winning, my short film that was shot in October, is my way of being able to showcase not only my strengths (because who knows me better than myself!) but also it’s a way of having a visual tool for people who can’t picture a Black female being “every woman.”
It is actually this outside of the box thinking that has allowed me to make way for other writing and producing opportunities.
I know people who pursue acting because they want to be rich and famous. That’s a fun reason and I am not mad at it, what’s wrong at being rich and famous right? Sadly the chances of that kind of pay off are slim to none so I am not sure if it’s worth all the sacrifice. I also know people who are purists and pursue it for the love of the craft. I think that is noble but I don’t quite swing that way either. Honestly, I pursue it because it is the only thing that gives me life. I believe I have a talent for it and it is the only thing that keeps my interest. I am by far no expert on the matter; I have only shared my own personal experience with you today but the fact that I am excited to discover all the things I don’t know, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many “Cups of Soup” I consume as my dinner is the sign for me to keep trucking! Thanks for reading!
About Our Writer: Shauna Blaize is an accomplished model, budding actor, producer and writer. She was recently in the off-Broadway play The Girls of Summer and in October 2015, she produced and starred in her self-written short film Winning.
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