Erika Alexander on why Hollywood is racist
“Living Single” actress Erika Alexander has a bone to pick with Hollywood. Having been in the industry for more than 20 years, the actress has experienced marginalization firsthand while seeking roles.
Alexander took to her website to air her frustrations out with racist Hollywood, and to discuss the creation of a “Mad Men” episode that included black people in the cast.
Why did I write an episode of Mad Men with negroes? And by that I mean with “negro” characters in it, not with.. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Anyway, why did I write an episode of TV that I know will never be made? Though I work as an actress and have pitched and sold a television series or two in my time in Hollywood, I’m not a writer on Mad Men, so this episode won’t appear anywhere but here. Why, then? And why negroes? Aren’t we finished with all that? In honor of Season 6, let me tell you about it.
I like Mad Men. A lot. I like the subject matter – advertising; I like the cast – Don Draper is hot; I like the look – sexy Eames meets Op Art; I like the writing – Matthew Weiner is a storytelling beast. I love the writing.
I have only one issue with Mad Men (ok, with a bunch of shows, but let’s stick with this one): I’d love to see more diversity. I’m a black actress, so diversity is an issue that comes up for me. A lot. Mad Men, Game Of Thrones, Girls, Veep, these are cool shows, except for the fact that they would really rock with more people of color, series regulars or otherwise. I complain, wtf?.. and bemoan, WTF!.. but alas, for all my years in TV, I’m not able to make a difference in my own living room. Or am I?
I needed to find a different way to contribute to the conversation, to answer the constant refrain from show creators that they don’t want to just “shoehorn” black characters into their shows. Lena Dunham has said “Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting”. Ok, don’t write in a token character, write five or ten great characters of color.
To be fair, Matthew Weiner has addressed this issue. “I do feel like I’m proud of the fact that I am not telling a wish fulfillment story of the real interaction of white America and black America… I’m very proud of the fact I’m not doing this guilty thing.”
Respectfully, I believe a storyteller has permission to imagine and create unusual situations in his or her fictional world to tell a larger truth. But I get it, race is complicated.
Read the rest here.
Will Hollywood always be white-washed?
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