Stop recycling: we need different actors of color

Kereece McLean

On Friday, Disney announced that Beyonce and Donald Glover will be starring in the 2019 live-action Lion King movie. This is a step toward diversity on the big screen, but it was a missed opportunity to give talented and unknown artists a chance to display their craft. Hollywood habitually rotates the same crop of actors and actresses of color in large-scale productions. Diversity is a great objective, but achieving variety within that diverse group is an even bigger step forward Hollywood needs to take.

It’s not just about representing people of color, but also giving the up-and-coming actors an opportunity to provide diversity to represent their race.

People of color make up 40 percent of the U.S. population yet are underrepresented on every front. There are three white actors for every minority film lead, and the ratio drops to 4 to 1 among film directors. But it is not that people of color are unwatchable.

A UCLA study reported that America’s increasing diversity correlates with the audience’s increased preference for diverse films and television. The problem is that most actors of color aren’t given an opportunity. Jobs are circulated among well-known household names, making it difficult for actors starting out to find success.

Black Americans have Samuel L. Jackson, Morgan Freeman and Viola Davis. Asian Americans get Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan. Latinas are used to Jennifer Lopez, George Lopez or Eva Longoria. But that’s it. We must put some new faces on the big screen because these actors don’t represent everyone. Real representation is the inclusion of different experiences that exist within a single community.   

Sociology junior Ameze Guobadia agrees that representation is important in the film industry. “People want to see people that look like them,” Guobadia said. “It can be inspiring and cathartic when you can relate to a specific character’s situation or you witness someone that looks like you achieve greatness.”

Relatability is why we connect with films. No actor of color will approach the same part in the same manner. Diversity communities of people of color allows for better representation of all viewers. Hollywood needs to reflect America’s ever increasing diversity by hiring a greater range of actors of color — so the recycling must stop.

McLean is an English junior from Houston. She is a columnist.