This blog post is a companion piece for a podcast episode I did a few months ago with the same name. You can find it here.
A while back I saw a post on Instagram basically saying that white actors need to stop complaining about losing roles to minority actors by saying stuff like, “oh, they didn’t cast me because they decided to ‘go diverse’ with the role” or “oh, man, it’s so hard book work as a white actor because Hollywood wants to be diverse.” These are lies, we know they are lies, and if you don’t believe me, just go turn on your TV and start counting.
That post is related to a racist thought that I know I’ve had sometimes when I see who was ultimately cast in a role I auditioned for. Often times I’ll think, “Oh, this is that commercial I auditioned for, let’s see who they cast. Oh, they decided to go with a Black woman. Well, I mean, they should. That’s great.”
Now, on the surface, maybe you’re thinking, “Amy, that’s not racist. You’re not complaining. You’re applauding diversity, inclusion, and representation. You’re so woke, give yourself an ally cookie.”
Because the problem with that thought is what’s behind it. Even though I am applauding diversity, inclusion, and representation, the thought still implicitly assumes that the thought process in casting went RACE, and then talent - and that is not okay. That’s racist. It is racist to assume that an actor’s race is the main reason they were chosen for a role, instead of their talent.
Okay, so I have this racist thought and I don’t want it anymore. What do I do about it? I’m looking at it and asking why. I think asking WHY will go a long way in combating it within me because it will help me understand it, re-program it, and unlearn it.
So, WHY do I think this racist thought? I’ve uncovered two reasons:
First and foremost, this thought is born out of white supremacist culture which permeates our society and in this example makes me unconsciously believe that Black people are less talented or qualified, in general, than white people, and if a Black person is chosen for something instead of a white person, then it was just because of a desire for diversity. To deal with this I have to keep calling out this and other racist lies that I’ve been fed by white supremacy.
The second reason I uncovered is that I tell myself a lot of stories about why I wasn’t cast in a role to make myself feel better. “Maybe I looked like the director’s ex” - “ maybe I looked too young” - “maybe they wanted a brunette” - I tend to make the casting decision about “a look” in order to protect myself.
Because if the decision was about a look, then it wasn’t about my talent.
At the root of this racist thought is a fear-based thought and judgment about myself as an actor: I’m using this racist lie and the idea of casting decisions being solely about “looks” to protect myself from the scary thought that the reason I wasn’t cast was because I’m a horrible, untalented actor.
So, how do I deal with that?
Well, guess what guys? We should not be assuming it’s about our talent anyway. Our talent, our worth, our value as actors is never on the line at an audition. When we think that it is, we are under-valuing ourselves. Not being cast is not a reflection of our worth or value or talent as actors. It just means we weren’t the best actor FOR THAT ROLE. It does NOT mean that we’re not good actors.
I know this for a fact because in my audition class, I have seen the exact same character look beautiful on 20 actors of all different “looks” -ages, races, genders, body types, everything. We’re all talented. Lack of booking is not an indication of a lack of talent.
It’s ALL lies. The thought that Black actors are less talented than white actors is a lie, and the thought that if I wasn’t cast I must be an untalented actor is a lie.
Now, the way I can combat these lies is to be aware of them when they comes up in my brain, consciously say, “that’s not true” and reaffirm what IS true: Skin color is not an indication of talent, Black actors and white actors are both equally as talented, and I am a talented actor. Over time I’m hoping I can strengthen these truths in order to replace the lies that I’ve learned and perpetuated.
It’s time to stop telling myself a racist lie about casting decisions that only serves to uphold white supremacy. The truth is always “they cast the best actor for the role.” Period.
Now, I’m still (and forever will be) on my journey of unlearning unconscious racism and white supremacist culture, and it’s very likely that I’ve missed something important in this post. If I have, I’m sorry, and I promise to listen, learn, and adjust my thinking further if anyone has any feedback that they want to share.