On the big screen, African American actors and actresses in prominent roles are few and far between. I remember the many movies of the 1990’s that featured a great deal of African American actors in a variety of roles. As an urban professional I would like to work in the entertainment industry so that I can help put actors in a position that is respectable and also influential to other minorities.
Sheril Antonio of thyblackman.com writes a reflective piece on the state of ‘Black’ or ‘African American’ cinema. She notes that in recent years, the Oscar’s that African American actors have won have been for roles that are less desirable or not as glamorous than others. The characters in these movies typically have traits that are viewed as “nostalgic”. Roles like the ones played by Halle Berry in Monsters Ball, Denzel Washington in Training Day, Mo’Nique in Precious, and Octavia Spencer in The Help, are ones that African Americans would generally like not to be associated with.
Spike Lee, one of the most prominent and well-known directors in Hollywood, agrees. He said, “Where are the people of color? That’s what it comes down to. How many people, when they have those meetings and vote on what movies get made, how many people of color are in those meetings,” displaying his frustration at the lack of diversity in Hollywood. I find his statement to be particularly telling of the reality because Spike Lee was the director of many films in the 1990’s that I saw that featured a lot of actors of color. Now, a lot of those same actors that were in his films before, it seems, are not involved in any other film projects that have mainstream distribution. I have noticed, however, that a lot of well-known actors have been starring in independent features. This just shows that even though their work isn’t as mainstream as it once was, their love for the arts is still as strong as ever.