Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t like when black British actors play Americans

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I didn’t realize before now that the lead actor in Get Out, Daniel Kaluuya, is a British actor. Apparently, writer/director Jordan Peele auditioned many African-American actors and some black British actors and Daniel is the one who stood out for Peele. I bet it was also a financial decision, considering the tiny budget of Get Out, and Peele wanted to hire an actor who would be okay with basically making scale. But the fact that so many black British actors are finding work in American films – by playing African-American characters – has pissed off Samuel L. Jackson. Sam seemed to open Pandora’s Box when he discussed how black British actors don’t have the same kind of institutional insight into the struggles of African-Americans.

Samuel L. Jackson thinks too many black British actors are being cast in American roles.

“I know the young brother who’s in the movie, and he’s British,” Jackson said. “There are a lot of black British actors that work in this country. All the time. I tend to wonder what would that movie have been with an American brother who really understands that in a way. Because Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for a hundred years. Britain, there’s only about eight real white people left in Britain … So what would a brother from America made of that role? I’m sure the director helped. Some things are universal, but everything ain’t.”

Asked why he feels this is a recurring issue, Jackson answered, “They don’t cost as much. Unless you’re an unknown brother that they’re finding somewhere.”

He added, “They think they’re better trained, for some reason, than we are because they’re classically trained. I don’t know what the love affair is with all that. It’s all good. Everybody needs to work, but there are a lot of brothers here that need to work too. They come here because there are more opportunities, and they actually get paid when they work here. Which is fine.”

But it’s not just Kaluuya’s casting Jackson took issue with, he also brought up David Oyelowo’s turn as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma.”

“There are some brothers in America who could have been in that movie who would have had a different idea about how King thinks,” he said.

Jackson’s comments haven’t gone over well with other black British actors, including “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” star John Boyega. After the interview started circulating online, the actor tweeted, “Black brits vs African American. A stupid ass conflict we don’t have time for.”

Over the weekend, “Get Out” director Jordan Peele explained that he originally agreed with Jackson about the importance of casting an American in the lead role, but that he was swayed by Kaluuya’s performance. “Once I’d wrapped my head around how universal these themes were, it became easy for me to pick Daniel, because at the end of the day, he was the best person for the role,” he told the Observer. “He did the audition and it was a slam dunk.”

Kaluya, for his part, told Vulture last month that even though he was raised in England, he fully understood what his character was going through.

“I know what it means to be stopped by police. I’ve been stopped by police a lot. And the party scene, when everyone was highlighting how black Chris was and saying ‘black’ things and being nice. You kind of can’t say anything, because you know the intention is to make people feel welcome. However, the impact is making people feel isolated and different, because you just want to feel included, like you belong. That’s what the conflict is, and that’s what it captured. Only a black guy could write this, only someone that lives this,” he told the website.

[From Page Six & People]

I’ve covered interviews with Idris Elba, David Oyelowo and David Harewood where they basically say that they come to America to work because that’s where the jobs are for black actors. There is a thriving British film industry and a British TV industry, but there are few quality roles and less consistent work for black British actors in Britain. So they work on their American accents and get work over here. I do think Sam has a point about what actors bring to the table as far as living the American life, and dealing with systemic oppression from birth in America. But I also think… they’re actors. They can research and they can pretend.. And it’s not like the Great Britain has an amazing record of being 100% woke, which is evidenced by the fact that black actors aren’t finding work in Great Britain. American film/TV is still profoundly f–ked up when it comes to inclusion, but we’re still doing better than Britain.

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206 Responses to “Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t like when black British actors play Americans”

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  1. QueenB says:

    It sounds a bit like “they took our jobs”! Lots of brits come to the states and the white, eton guy that american women love so much works well there too. You cant be for open borders and then complain when people from other countries find employment in your country.

    I also dont think that actors need specific lived experiences, thats just not what that job is about.

    • SilverUnicorn says:

      Agree, he seems bitter. I also wonder why he says that there aren’t issues in UK about diversity or casting of black actors and there haven’t been in ages, I mean… really? Maybe he doesn’t know about the signs “no Irish, no Blacks, no dogs” that were hung around in public until the 20th century…

      Then… Sam…., Brexit? I mean, where do you live mate, on the moon… Lol

      • Loopy says:

        I love this man,i never thought I would hear him saying such ignorant statements. Does he feel the same with the Laro Crofts and Bridget Jones being palyed by Americans or is this reserved just for the ‘brothers’..I also think it is stupid, what is the basis of acting..its ACTING right as long as that individual is not appropriating someones race/culture then it should be open to any nationality to play a specific role. And for him to say a UK black actor would not get the struggle and know the experience of such a situation is idiotic. Why then did he not mention Sydney Portier in To Sir with Love, racism is racism and it is everywhere and ALL Brothers can relate, just because the back drop is different does not take away the emotional and psychological impact. Whether its Misisipi,Brixton,Joburg,Nairobi etc

      • velourazure says:

        This is just foolishness what he’s proposing, some sort of nationalistic affirmative action for acting. HELLO, it’s acting. The profession where you get paid to impersonate someone else. I highly doubt Jordan Peel had some secret desire to hire a brit, that actor simply kicked ass in the audition.

      • WTW says:

        @Loopy To Sir With Love was ages ago. Today, few to no black Americans are starring in British roles, so while it’s understandable that black Brits want to work in the U.S. because there are more opportunities, that leaves fewer opportunities for black American actors. And I do sometimes wonder if Hollywood doesn’t feel more comfortable with black Brits. Anyway, I had the same reaction as Sam when I watched “Loving.” Neither of the leads was an American. Ruth Negga is British-Ethiopian and didn’t grow up with any black people and the male lead was Australian. I wondered what that movie might have been like with Americans who had a stronger connection to the history. While the black experience is in some ways universal, it is not completely so. I say this as a black American who lived in England as an exchange student. I know my opinion is likely to be unpopular here, but I think Sam has a point and that the racial dynamics in the U.S. and the UK are different. That said, I’ve also objected when black Americans like Will Smith, Morgan Freeman, Jill Scott, etc. have played African characters.

      • Lightpurple says:

        @Loopy, Sidney Poitier was born in the US while his parents were visiting. They were from the Bahamas and raised him in the Bahamas, which was part of the British Commonwealth

      • nikko says:

        WTW I totally agree with you.

      • Princess says:

        I agree with WTW, black Americans are always playing African roles, who is complaining about that? I actually believe that there must be a good reason why Black British actors are getting plum roles…I think it is to do with quality and education. Also note that most of these actors are of Nigerian origin, and very well educated and disciplined and this actually helps if you want to be an acTOR as they say (wink!)

      • Saks says:

        @WTW, So according to your reasoning Hollywood shouldn’t do movies set in other countries because US actors can’t connect to the realities of those stories and dynamics are different…

      • Godwina says:

        God, yes. The rosy glasses some peoples have about race relations in the UK! Jackson sounds super fucking clueless. Also, Sam? Multicultural London does not equal UK and you better believe there are super white communities in the Isles where people of colour stand out and deal with shit on an hourly basis. Heck, they deal with it in London all the time, too. The idea that people aren’t facing systemic racism constantly in Britain is MINDBOGGLING.

      • Anna says:

        I think his commentary is an opinion. Something he personally finds troubling. His opinion is valuable because he is THE NUMBER ONE box office actor of all time. Over ALL actors. He puts butts in seats. He knows what’s happening in the industry, and what is happening is that American actors jobs are going to Aussies, Brits, Canadians and on and on. Foreign actors have taken over Hollywood, and as the number one American actor, he sees it as a problem. For example, in Selma, which is very personal to African Americans, the movie was cast with PRIMARILY, almost all, British actors. That was just unnecessary. The powerful agencies in Hollywood are turning there backs on American actors. It’s a problem for years now. We have unions to protect acting jobs and they are being successfully circumvented. Foreign entrepreneurs becoming increasingly interested in the movie business, made it harder and harder for American actors to land leading roles. Whether you agree with me or not, we need this capital to remain in our economy. Our American actors cannot afford outsourcing work and neither can our economy. Samuel knows what he’s talking about.

    • Chelsey says:

      Yeah he sounds a bit salty.

    • Beth says:

      Definitely sounds bitter and seems to be saying “they took our jobs.” Did he lose a role in a movie to a black actor from England? What about white British actors playing Americans ? He sounds like a Trump supporter

    • ctgirl says:

      Sam is always going to find a reason to be unhappy.

    • marthe says:

      Queen B
      thank you for your great comment!!!

  2. Leah says:

    It pisses me off that the first major movies star to critique the british wave goes after the black brits.
    I mean the black british actors many of them go to america because thats were they can work consistently
    That isn’t the case for the white british actors, who basically get all the leads in britian and then go to america to become even bigger and often ride on the back some BBC leading character or show.
    Someone like Idris wasn’t getting all that much work in the UK and certainly not leading man jobs ( like Cumber, Eddie and Hiddles) before he went to america. He literally went there to restart his career. Same for Harewood. Most of them do ok in theatre but doesn’t get leads in the british TV and film industry.

    • Nanny to the Rescue says:

      Hiddleston didn’t have leading man jobs in the UK either. He’s no Cumberbatch in that regard. His breakthrough came with Loki.

      • Leah says:

        Hiddles isn’t the point here ( although i get the feelling you want him to be ;) )
        We can discuss Hiddles career but thats sort of derailing the convo lets just say someone like him has had a far easier ride than most of these black actors. No mentor like Branagh to make a star out of Idris or Daniel.

      • Nanny to the Rescue ( ex-Crox) says:

        No, I *don’t* want him to be the point again, *that’s* my point. It was you who brought him up, not me.

        You said “Idris wasn’t getting all that much work in the UK and certainly not leading man jobs” and put Hiddleston among those who, contrary to Idris, were. Well, he wasn’t. You can use him as an example of privilege in many contexts but “leading man in UK (prior to him coming to US)” isn’t one of them.

      • Leah says:

        @Nanny
        I mentioned him amongst other successful white british actors, you choose to pick up on him in particular. But since you did pick up on him come to think about it he is the only one of the 3 who have played a very american Icon ( Hank Williams).
        You can kid yourself if you want that Hiddles has had to struggle on par with Idris and black actors, but that simply isn’t the truth.
        @Jaded Idris only got a BBC lead after he had made it in america via the Wire and movies, that is kind of part of the point.

      • Nanny to the Rescue says:

        I don’t think he strugles at all and I know he played an American icon. I don’t care about that sort of thing, I’m an European Slav and we’re always played by Americans with very bad accents. Not to mention how Romanies (minor part of my ancestry) are played and by who. I find that funny, not tragic. That’s not the point.

        You described a specific situation where he does not belong. That’s all the beef I have with your statement. If you meant more genereally, you could have written it like that, and I would have agreed, because he does have it easier than many due to many factors. Again, being succesful in UK before US isn’t one of them.

      • Leah says:

        Meh! About 10 years ago he was fresh out of drama school and a BBC Series regular and doing prestigious theatre jobs at high profile theatres. If you know anything about the cut throat acting industry in London that is successful . Sure he wasn’t a mega star but an up and coming actor who was on the radar of most casting directors as opposed to majority of young black actors fresh out of drama school who find their opportunities much more limited.

      • Nanny to the Rescue ( ex-Crox) says:

        Still moving the tentpole, I see?

    • Kata says:

      Americans play every European nationality ever, and often play an amosr offesnsive caricature, yet no one complains about that.

    • Jaded says:

      I thought Idris was lead in a british show called Luther?

  3. Des says:

    Riz Ahmed wrote an amazing essay as part of this collection of essays about race in Britain and he basically made this point about Brits of color coming to America to find work because they’re so excluded in Britain. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/15/riz-ahmed-typecast-as-a-terrorist

  4. Gene123 says:

    John Boyega said it right. This is not the fight that should be fought in hollywood right now.

    • Mia4S says:

      I ageee to an extent, but if this is a concern African American actors have they have a right to express it and examine it. White American actors have been pissed off about the Aussies and Brits for years and expressed and discussed it often. I don’t take a side (I’m a Canadian white woman, I don’t have any standing too) but I’m not a fan of the “Not now! We have other battles so I’m not going to listen to your concerns”.

      John’s young and quite good but he’s really not anything outside Star Wars. Whether he will be remains to be seen. Sam Jackson has survived and thrived in the business for decades. When he speaks on the industry he may not always be right, but I’m interested.

      • QueenB says:

        And those white actors will also need to shut up. Its Trump like. Immigrants are welcome and if they find employment, great. Just because you were born in a country does not give you special rights. As I said above the white Eton guy sells well with american women and the white american men that dont get roles because of that will have to suck it up.

        So this is no “not now” its a “never ever” battle because if you dont like that people from foreign countries get jobs in your country you are not a decent person.

      • Jeesie says:

        John was in Attack the Block before Star Wars, which was very, very highly regarded.

      • Mia4S says:

        “Just because you were born in a country does not give you special rights.”

        @QueenB it does give you that, it really does. I’ve worked in immigration law for seven years. Right or wrong, for better and worse, citizens of certain nations have special rights within that nation that others don’t. Misunderstandings like that are part of why we in Canada have refugees and migrants scrambling to us across the US border not understanding that many of them will be deported from here for not meeting our requirements to claim refuge. Immigration is insanely tough and messy. And heartbreaking.

        What Jackson’s talking about is first world problems level though. Many many of the immigration visas at that level are granted on the basis of a “extraordinary ability”. As I understand it, Jackson is questioning whether there is a shortage of extraordinary ability or whether casting directors are preferring Brits for reasons that may or may not be on the up and up. He’s entitled to ask that question and if he’s asking it? Others in the industry are too. Do I think anything will change? Nah, this debate has being going on for a decade. If anything there will be an increase in multiculturalism for the world market. The market will dictate…well, until Trump blows the whole system apart. 🙄

      • Mia4S says:

        @Jeesie Attack the Block was very cool but barely managed $5 million worldwide. Highly regarded as a cult film but a good first step at most.

        I’m very curious to see how he and Daisy Ridley do (being the newest of that bunch). Both have great potential but while Star Wars opens doors, it doesn’t guarantee. I was very excited to see John was going the Pacific Rim sequel (cool!)….until I saw he was starring with Scott Eastwood (never mind). 😒 So I’ll say I’m excited for his potential after that.

      • Lalu says:

        Of course as citizens of certain countries we have special rights. I don’t necessarily agree with Sam but I know that as Americans, we do have special rights.
        Also have to laugh at people saying he sounds like a trump supporter. Anyone can say ignorant stuff. Dude is hardly a trump supporter.

      • Scotchy says:

        You are so right Mia,
        I am a beige Canada in the US working on my craft with an O1( alien with extraordinary ability)
        It was an intensive process to get it in which I needed a lot of proof, along with a sponser and projects in place.
        You don’t just get to waltz into the the US and get jobs. Casting calls go out worldwide depending on the project. Sam is salty and bitter. It’s about the right fit and if no one from the US is the right fit you hire elsewhere. Then that talent gets the visa etc… Immigration is complicated as is casting so he needs to shut it!!

    • hallie says:

      87% of the UK is white. There will obviously be less roles for poc. Sixer if you love diversity so much, why do you live in the whitest part of the country??

      • Sixer says:

        Eh? Are you accusing me of white flight? Seriously? Ask nicely, and I will tell you. Be rude, and I’ll just call you rude.

      • Jaii says:

        I do not get y u r going after sixer? And what the hell does where she lives have to do with what she believes?

      • slowsnow says:

        @Sixer, you a celeb now, with fans and all who follow you from comment to comment LOL

      • hallie says:

        I didn’t accuse I just asked a question. It’s like cumberbatch going on about refugees yet living in an area that doesn’t take them in. You said you only have your job based on private schooling. You criticise the private school sector for being unfair yet arr more than happy to accept the benefits. Being a governor at a local doesn’t cut it.

      • Sixer says:

        Stop being so rude, hallie, and I’ll engage happily with you!

        I critique the British class system because I’ve seen both sides of it as a working class kid educated by scholarship within the elite system so have some decent insight. I critique structural inequality in the UK on all axes, including race, because I am an egalitarian. I critique the British creative industry because I am a part of it (albeit publishing, not theatre, TV or film).

        I live where I live now, which is majority white, rather than London, where I lived for the first thirty years of my life, which is multicultural, because I had cancer (twice) and my husband and I decided rural life and downsizing would be better for my health. It’s good in that my kids experience far more class diversity here than they would in London and bad because they experience less race diversity than they would in London.

        Happy now?

  5. Lightpurple says:

    On the much lighter side, the bit he did last night with James Corden re-enacting all his major films was hilarious

  6. Nanny to the Rescue says:

    I have a question regarding paychecks. Sam says (black) British actors are cheaper than (African) Americans. But wouldn’t an unknown American actor cost the same as an unknown British one? How does this work? Are there any rules, unions or something that make American actors more expensive?

  7. V4Real says:

    Sam I love you but don’t come for my Idris Elba.

    I get what he’s saying. He’s saying that a British Black doesn’t fully understand the struggles of interracial
    dating as a Black American does. He’s not talking about Black Britts as a whole playing American characters.

  8. Lary says:

    I lived in England and i’m white and I can tell you there’s still a very high level of racism – institutional and class based. England might have abolished slavery before America but it hasn’t exactly been very welcoming to non-Anglo-Saxon types either…

  9. Jae says:

    What about a white American actor playing someone German? Or French? Or Russian? Like, do Americans understand what it means to live in a state that has gone through a bloody revolution, an actual invasion during WWII and 75 years of Communist regime?

  10. slowsnow says:

    Ohhh, his idea of the UK is so sweet. We also have unicorns here.

  11. Susannah says:

    Sometimes I hear black British actors say, “There aren’t any parts in the UK for black actors, so we have to go to America.” Black actors in America fought for those parts for years with consistent protests and just perseverance. I can see why it would be frustrating to have to compete for those limited amounts of roles with actors from other countries who didn’t do any of the heavy lifiting before hand, especially as British actors will work for lower wages, which is another frustration.
    Are they fighting for roles and trying to make British films and TV more inclusive back in the UK?

    • Sixer says:

      It is, albeit slowly, getting much better here than it used to be (although work for South Asian actors has further to go than even that for black actors, given the demographics here) just as it is slowly getting better in the US. But, it’s also heavily influenced by class as I say below. If your export market is period drama, you privilege not just white actors but also posh actors. And class bias further shuts out POC.

    • QueenB says:

      “actors from other countries ” And whats the problem with that? Did african americans only fight for americans? I dont think so.

      And please see “foreign workers for lower wages” in the political context of today.

    • paolanqar says:

      He is basically saying that people shouldn’t have the freedom to move to another country to seek work because the people who already live in that country deserve it more.
      Say what?
      He maybe doesn’t realise it but he sounds just like all those morons who voted for Brexit and Trump.
      Should we be more open minded because he is referring to a specific race?
      No. I don’t think so.

    • jinni says:

      Another thing is that a lot of foreign Black people come to the States and look down on African Americans and don’t want to be associated with us because they have taken in and upheld the stereotypes about us but have no problem with benefiting from all the hard work African Americans have and are still doing to get basic human rights in our own country. And this goes for most other PoC minorities.

    • ky says:

      You know what, I see your point. I also noticed that when all of #oscarsowhite came up all the the black brits were completely silent. It reminds me of the story of Henny Penny.

    • sanders says:

      His comments have validity. Conversations about immigration and representation will look different when its among diverse minority groups as opposed to talking about minority group vs whites. I think it’s a mistake to apply the same analysis to what he is saying as you would with someone like Trump, bannon or xenophobe talking about making america great again.

      Both British and American black actors face discrimination and a lack of representation. i wish that there were jobs for everyone. I fully support immigration and more radically, open borders. As I’m dreaming of my utopia, getting rid of institutional racism in the Arts would also solve a lot. Still, it is a very competitive industry, where few succeed as big stars.
      It doesn’t seem fair that American black actors who are already shut out of the industry lose out on roles to British black actors. I understand the resentment and get Susanaha’s point about how hard the american black community has fought for representation in hollywood. They deserve to reap the fruits of their labour.

      I did wonder while watching 12 years a Slave, Selma, Get Out and Moonlight, why Americans weren’t cast. I’m curious about the rationale of choosing British actors considering there are probably 100′s, 1000′s of American actors vying for each one of these very limited roles. It’s almost become a pattern to cast an actor from the UK. Patterns like this always get my attention. Yet, the UK actors in all those films were great.

    • sanders says:

      Also, The Night Of used two South Asian actors from the UK. I thought RIz was good in the role. The woman who played his lawyer did not master the American accent.
      It’s not about the skill level of the actors. it’s about representation. When you live in a country your whole life, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect to get opportunities to fully participate in your chosen profession. Ideally, it should be a balance of drawing on local and international talent.

  12. Clare says:

    ‘Britain, there’s only about eight real white people left in Britain ‘
    Sorry, what?

    I like Sam Jackson, a lot. I even kind of see his point. But this is some ignorant sh*t.

  13. Crickets says:

    This is how South Africans feel when African American’s play South African roles. They murder the accent bug time. Bleh.

  14. Danny says:

    Guess African Americans will stop playing Africans by his logic

  15. Starryfish says:

    How does he feel about the countless American actors that have portrayed the lives and struggles of African people? I’ll wait for his discussion of how those actors might not understand the experiences that would inform a nuanced performance in those films. I’m sure I’ll be waiting for a while. Someone please remind Sam that the black American experience isn’t the only black experience.

  16. Lalu says:

    This doesn’t really sound right to me, but then, I’m not a black American actor.
    Besides… Even though I often don’t agree with Sam L, I absolutely adore him. Something about him. He’s the real deal.

  17. Chaine says:

    This is totally OT but I have a coat that looks exactly like his. Cracking up right now. 😂

  18. Sixer says:

    I think, in general, you can’t be a global centre of an industry, as Hollywood is, and expect to make fortunes exporting your work all around the world but not accept immigrant workers. That’s how it goes. If Hollywood was more parochial, it would make less money. It’s the same with the financial sector here in the UK – it’s staffed by a rainbow of all colours and nationalities, because the City of London is one of the very few global centres of finance.

    Specifically on race, I think the structural problems are similar on both sides of the Pond and I can understand frustration over immigrant workers getting jobs over domestic disadvantaged groups.

    Same as I get infuriated by the American obsession with British colonial-nostalgia dramas because its export potential distorts our domestic market here and further entrenches our structural issues over what can get made in terms of both race AND class.

    • Tina says:

      I agree with all of that. I was in a meeting the other day and looked around and it looked like a Benetton ad. They’ve got to go for the best people for the job. Jordan Peele said that Kaluuya gave the best audition.

      On the structural problems, I’m a bit torn, because there are more African-Americans as a percentage of the population than black British people and the entertainment business is much bigger generally over there, so it does make sense that there would be more work in the US.

      However, you’re right, it’s still not good enough. UK film & especially TV need to do better about the types of stories they tell. Theatre over here does pretty well, which is one of the reasons that you have this pool of excellent, well-trained actors (black, white and Asian) who are getting these jobs.

      • Sixer says:

        I left a link for you Tina, which got rejected. It’s the Riz Ahmed speech to parliament on this and I think you’d find it interesting. It’s the pinned tweet at @rizmc.

        I could have used higher education instead of finance as an example, couldn’t I? World leader (if Brexit doesn’t mess it up).

        I do think storytelling is key, though I confess to a bias since my job is in storytelling.

      • Tina says:

        @Sixer, I’ve read it and thought it was thought-provoking. Even theatre has a way to go in terms of representation, but it’s leagues ahead of TV.

        Finance, HE, IT, so many industries in London are really diverse. The media and cultural industries actually lag behind. I despair of the effects that Brexit will have. It will be terrible, and we’re sleepwalking toward a really rough time.

      • Sixer says:

        We’re leaving Euratom, for heavens sakes. I worry for the research sector and higher education generally, I really do.

    • slowsnow says:

      I do get your point about changing the industry – as our beloved and hunky Riz Ahmed suggested. It’s slowly happening – which is why we are having these discussions listening to the minorites. 30 years ago there wasn’t even a light at the end of the tunnel of minority filmic and media representation.
      In Portugal, we have a black newswoman! With afro hair and everything! I could not believe my eyes. Never in my life would I have thought it would happen in that pretty racist bit of land by the ocean.

  19. MellyMel says:

    I get what he’s saying, but like it was already stated, these people are actors. It’s their job to pretend for a living. You don’t need to have lived a certain way to portray that in film. It might help you as a character but it’s not a requirement.

  20. LinaLamont says:

    Oh, FFS…it’s called ACTING! NOBODY plays themselves. You don’t have to have lived it to play it. Otherwise, there’d be very few movies, plays, tv shows. It’s the WRITERS that need an understanding….and this writer has it. And, the writer doesn’t have to have lived it, but, have a good grasp of the experience.

  21. shelley* says:

    I never realised Idis Elba was British the whole time I binged watched the wire.

    I wonder if any Americans watched it and thought his accent was “off” (I totally get that accents vary across the States)

    Anyway I think America is a big draw for actors generally, as Hollywood is and always was the major place for the film industry. I’m sure there are white Brits who have taken roles that could have gone to white Americans. Probably on the grounds of being cheap (and grateful)

  22. Whyme says:

    Ok with Brexit and what is going on in America right now THIS is what you’re going to talk about right now? It’s called acting btw. Sheesh.

  23. Leah says:

    Well if this is how he thinks then black american actors shouldnt play africans. Morgan Freeman shouldn’t have played mandela and Don cheadle shouldn’t have been cast in Hotel Rwanda
    Because they have not experienced apartheid in south Africa or the genocide in Rwanda. And its hard enough for african actors as it is without african amercians taking their jobs. I mean i can hardly name an african actor bar Lupita.

    • LAK says:

      Or Denzel Washington playing Steve Biko, Danny Glover and Terrence Howard as Mandela, Jennifer Hudson as Winnie Mandela, Anika Noni Rose and Jill Scott in No 1 Ladies Detective agency, Will Smith in Concussion, any American actor playing an Egyptian, ancient or mythological etc etc and so forth…..which leads to Yul Brunner as the King of Siam….the list is endless.

      • Jae says:

        ANYONE playing ancient Egyptian, since that ethnicity ceased to exist couple of millenia ago and all we have is some approximate reconstruction of what they looked like

      • LAK says:

        Jae: i think we can use some of antiquity to figure out what some Egyptians looked like.

        As an example, the statues of the Kushite Expansion into Egypt ie the 25th Dynasty (760 – 656 BC) have very Black African features eg this Kushite Spinx from the period (currently residing at the British Museum)

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SphinxOfTaharqa.jpg

        http://www.britishmuseum.org/images/bsl_kushite_sphinx_taharqo_channel_624x351.jpg

      • Jae says:

        LAK: oh, of course we have that. But it is fair, I think, to presume that they are more of a testament of what Anicient Egyptians saw as ‘beautiful’ (idealized, same as with the Greeks), or, to be more accurate what they considered the depiction of beauty using the existing standard for artistic expression (like how, say ‘manga’-style drawing uses its stylistic language to create what is considered a depiction of human yet doesn’t resemble a photographic image of one), than a representation of what Ancient Egyptians generally looked like.
        Better than nothing, but…

        Like, this Sphinx has Black African features, the big one near Cairo does not, the funeral masks of different nobles tell a different story, and then there is Akhenaten…

        There were obviously black people in Egypt since there was a strong Nubian connection, and we can tell as much from the remaining frescoes. But, judging from the very same, they were not in the majority.

      • LAK says:

        All these depictions were supposed to be self reflection despite the adoption of the same beauty standards across the centuries. Therefore we find a Spinx with distinctly Black African features as well as Sphinx (what’s the plural of Sphinx?) with features from other ethnicities.

        Based on that, we can point to a society with different ethnicities rising to the top long enough to sculpt themselves into national monuments.

        I would suggest that a casting solution would be a multi-ethnic cast with no preference given to any particular ethnicity because the antiquity suggests many ethnicities over the centuries.

        ETA: The Kushite Kingdom of Egypt came out of Sudan. Pyramids in Sudan attest to this, but they don’t draw as much attention as the biggies in Egypt.

        That said, the size of the monuments isn’t a sign of importance. More a sign of self importance. Some Pharoahs built bigger monuments to themselves which were not necessarily equal to size of the territories they held whilst others didn’t have time to build such big monuments or didn’t have similar sized egos.

  24. Nebby says:

    I took what Sam meant was that African Americans know the American experience and may have approached the character differently. He acknowledged there is lack of opportunity in the UK for black actors and how casting directors view black British actors vs American. He didn’t say they should not play American roles, just that the cultures are different and African Americans might portray them differently. I’m not seeing the problem here.

    • Kitten says:

      I’m not either? I think he made an interesting point TBH. Surprised at the backlash he’s receiving..

    • Leah says:

      yeah sure, but the same can be said for him and his african american colleagues playing black african parts, experiences they have not lived and cultures they don’t understand. … Ill go out on a limb here and say african actors have a much rougher deal..

      • Nebby says:

        @Leah it’s not about who has it worse it’s about the cultural knowledge African Americans have when playing American roles. I’ve heard plenty of ppl complain about African Americans playing other roles and how they got it wrong (simple things someone apart of that culture would or wouldn’t do). Also he never says they shouldn’t be able to play American roles, he even acknowledged the lack of opportunity in their home country. He only wondered what an AA would have brought to the table and how he would portray the character.

      • Chloe says:

        Nebby!
        You’re not answering her point. Is cultual knowledge only relevant in the case of american characters? So americans want to play africans and europeans but brits cant play americans? There’s a double standard here.

      • Nebby says:

        Chloe
        I clearly said othe cultures have criticized American actors depiction of characters bc they may not have the cultural knowledge of how a person in that area behaves.

    • Sixer says:

      If I were a black American actor, I am pretty sure I would be miffed at a Brit waltzing in to play an icon like MLK, especially when structural issues like #oscarssowhite are still so prevalent. I completely get that. I don’t think he’s wrong to express it with a bit of passion.

      There is, from the point of view of people in other countries, a degree of American exceptionalism about his general comments – Hollywood output colonises the entire world. Americans can’t expect to dominate a world market while remaining protectionist about who gets to partake in it. Especially when, as others have said, there’s no compunction about depicting icons from other societies. I think that’s the backlash.

      I think both things, although they conflict somewhat, are true.

      It’s just two different issues colliding and intersecting is all.

      • Lightpurple says:

        SLJ served as an usher at MLK’s funeral. I suspect he would have some ideas about how he thinks the portrayal could have been done.

      • Sixer says:

        Ah. Well that makes sense then, doesn’t it?

        I think David Oyelowo is a fine actor but he has given me the creeps ever since he said that God had spoken to him personally and told him he was destined to play MLK, so on that very narrow aspect of it – I’m with Sam!

      • Leah says:

        He may have a point but i don’t like his narrow-minded perspective, where he only seems to consider the struggle of african americans actors and not other black actors. And this they have it so much easier is not helpful. The classical training is simply part of the UK tradition ( or european for that matter, if you are a black actor in Russia or sweden its the same tradition) and btw many of these actors like Boyega, Idris and Harewood are from working class families. Harewood especially has a history of experiencing institutional racism as he is quite a bit older and came up in a time when things weren’t easy for black actors in the UK.
        On the note of cultural icons, South Africa for instance has a rich theatre community with some very black strong actors, I am sure some of them would have had
        ” ideas” about playing their cultural icons like Biko and Mandela. Instead those parts were given to black americans like Denzel and Freeman.
        I find that as many other areas the english speaking world and that includes black americans hardly ever consider people outside the english speaking world. There are tons of stories about non british or non americans depicted by hollywood actors that don’t get any backlash, no complaints about authenticity or knowing intimately the culture they depict. This only seems to get any attention when a brit plays an american or an american plays a brit.

      • Anon says:

        The difficulty I have with the structuralist argument is that it is the classic argument raised by those who oppose immigration more generally. Ask someone from an economically disadvantaged part of the north of England why he or she opposes immigration and the answer would probably be very similar to what you said above. Those who are already domestically disadvantaged feel upset when an immigrant is prioritised over them (as they see it). They would say, there are a lot of structural problems here – low education, lack of social housing, poverty – so why not give the council house, the job or the school place to someone who was born here and has fought to improve the lot of local people? We appreciate you may have it bad at home, but do you have to join our already overcrowded queue.

      • Chloe says:

        Very astute comment @anon. The argument is pretty much the same as anti immigration voters would make.

      • Sixer says:

        Yes, anon. Pause for thought with your comment. Righteous complaint; blame assigned to the wrong place.

        Gary Younge and Joseph Harker making similar points at the Grauniad:

        http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/09/samuel-l-jackson-black-british-actors-hollywood-valid?CMP=twt_gu

      • Anon says:

        Thanks for the link, Sixer – I hadn’t seen this.

        FWIW I have also heard the “cultural justification” advanced as an argument against having foreign, or minority ethnic, actors play Shakespearean roles, especially in the Histories. “Only a white English person can fully understand, or truly evoke for an audience, England in the 1400s.” Not that dissimilar from what SLJ is saying here.

    • I Choose Me says:

      Samesies. But I fully admit that my bias towards him might be influencing my opinion.

  25. Livealot says:

    Lol @ John Boyega’s response! His replies are always just spot on.

    I only agree with Sam that there is an American stigma that non American actors (no matter the race) are more “qualified”.

    • Adrien says:

      I think Sam was bitter John and not an American got the part of Finn in Force Awakens. He criticized Finn and Rey’s fighting skills when in reality most of the action scenes were performed by stunt doubles. He was just nitpicking. John just didn’t get any love from this jedi.

  26. bleu_moon says:

    My kids and I watch a few UK shows and we’re always noticing that British actors tend to look like regular people. And by “noticing” I mean we say, “That guy would never be allowed on TV in America.” At the very least they wouldn’t be lead characters. American actors all have to look like models with perfect hair, perfect teeth and perfect bodies. They may be playing a delivery guy, but they’ll be the best looking delivery guy ever. I think the focus on “pretty” over talent has really begun to show in the last 5 years. If you want generic attractive person for a network show there are plenty of American actors, but if you want a portrayal with depth the parts seem to go to the better trained, if less glamour model looking, Brits.

    ETA: I’m not saying there aren’t attractive British actors. :)

  27. Tessa says:

    There is to much sh*t in the world to worry about this!
    Maybe British actors are just better ;)

  28. Tiffany :) says:

    OT, but I saw this video where Michael K. Williams talks to himself about type casting and his career. It is brilliant and thought provoking.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/michael-k-williams-omar-little-the-atlantic-interviews-himself-about-whether-hes-typecast-a7583016.html

  29. Rachel says:

    If I’m not mistaken, the black actors in 12 Years a Slave were never slaves themselves. They’re all just actors and it’s called acting. Why must one experience something personally to portray it on screen? And, if that’s the case, it should apply to everything. If you were never poor, you can’t play a poor person. If you were never stabbed, you can’t play a stabbing victim.

  30. Guest says:

    May be, just may be, British actors are better? Btw, why is he saying this if he plays in every movie nowadays? May be, your American friends are more pissed at you than at unknown British actors? Lol
    I also read in an interview of Boyd Halbrook that British guys are always playing a villian just because they have a British accent. Is someone still pissed at some North God? 😁 may be they were casted and hired because their audition went well?

  31. Brandi says:

    Race aside, my husband hates it when he finds out an actor we thought was American turns out is British.
    I don’t get it either.

  32. paolanqar says:

    Renee zellweger (Bridget Jones), Mel Gibson (William Wallace), Meryl Streep (Margareth Thatcher), Kevin Costner (Robin Hood) and what about an Aussie playing a ROMAN GLADIATOR just to name a few.

    I’m sure there are also a lot of ‘brothers’ who would appreciate having a net worth of $150 million, instead of being constantly angry and bitter at the world.
    If he is so worried about this topic maybe he should give his ‘american brothers’ a chance by turning down some role instead of being in at least 10 films a year.

  33. Ana says:

    I’m a bit disappointed in Samuel L. Jackson over this one. According to his mentality, then gay people shouldn’t be able to portray straight people (or viceversa), and an actress couldn’t play the role of an abused woman unless she’s been abused in her real life? I thought it was called ACTING.

    It also comes as quite xenophobic. A bit like those people who are against inmigrants because they “steal” american jobs.

    • Nebby says:

      Yeah no, he wondered about the approach an African American would take vs the actor in the movie bc he would have the cultural knowledge. Actors study for their parts of course but how the character is portrayed maybe different, which is OK!

  34. S says:

    Well, the same argument has been made about actors playing other races or genders. Non-trans actors playing trans roles, straight actors playing gay roles, skinny actors playing overweight roles (with padding), white actors playing minority roles, minority actors playing different-minority roles. Food for thought there…

  35. kim says:

    Sam should stop taking all those angry sadistic black man (Quentin Tarantino
    I love the N word in my movie) roles. Don’t blame the British actors for picking better
    projects.

  36. KL says:

    It would have been hard to find someone to nail that role like Daniel Kaluuya did. A lot is conveyed through just his eyes. They needed the right actor to make it work, and that actor was Kaluuya. The guy hit it out of the park.

  37. Lua says:

    I get what he’s saying. British actors don’t “get” the struggle. That being said, if a British actor played the role best, it should go to the best actor. Clearly he was good in the role, as the film is doing great with critics. If this film were a flop, I guarantee he wouldn’t have said anything about this actor. He’s upset the film is huge and getting a lot of exposure without an American (big name?) actor….who probably wouldn’t have taken the role with the budget offered. The Americans who auditioned didn’t speak to the director/writer. That’s his baby. He can cast the best man for the role if he wants to.

  38. Kim says:

    Ruth Negga is not British Ethiopian. She is Irish Ethiopian. And the no blacks no dogs no Irish signs were still up in England in the 60s. My dad saw them.

  39. Adrien says:

    Samuel just answered his own question. Black British actors take their roles seriously. Americans are all about the swag. Samuel is always playing the badass guy who is always about to blurt “muthaf*cker” no matter what his role is, even as a kidnapped American president. He gets a hefty paycheck for playing Jules Winnfield in every movie. There are exceptions, of course but John Boyega was right.

    • Goldie says:

      Or could it be that Jackson is typecast in certain roles because of how he is perceived?
      You know, when I read SLJ’s comments, I initially disagreed with him. Ironically, I think some of the responses are actually validating his point. There are loads of talented, hardworking African-American actors. Apparently Black-British actors are perceived as being more serious, classier, etc., while black Americans only care about the “swag”?
      So while I don’t have a problem with foreign black actors coming to the US for work (I’m the child of immigrants myself) I do think it’s fair for American actors to discuss the potential biases that studio executives have when it comes to their casting preferences.

      • Tina says:

        I’m sure you’re right about the perception of “classiness”, but I really don’t think it’s only that. The training in the UK is different to that in the US. It’s less Method-focussed, and I think that’s a good thing. RADA, LAMDA, etc provide really good training, and the actors who come out of those places can handle pretty much anything. It’s not that African-American actors aren’t as talented or hardworking as black British actors, they absolutely are, but the system is not as centralised as in the UK.

        I think the comparison to Canadian actors is helpful. There are lots of white Canadian actors who are successful in the US – Ryans Gosling and Reynolds to name but two. But I can’t think of a single black Canadian actor who has been as successful in the US as black British actors like David Oyelowo, John Boyega, Idris Elba etc are. And the percentage of black Canadians and black Britons is roughly the same – 2.5% in Canada and 3% in the UK.

      • msd says:

        I just want to point out that the emphasis on “training” has created a whole set of other problems in Britain. Namely – class. If you read UK newspapers they’re often complaining about the fact that acting has become, more and more, something for kids from wealthy families. This is because education has become more expensive and other avenues into the industry like rep theatre are dead.

        For example, the actor Jackson mentions, Daniel Kaluuya, didn’t go to drama school at all and that was a big hurdle for him in the UK. He actually said “I couldn’t get a theatre job because I wasn’t trained, didn’t go to drama school”. So not only are there more roles in the US (both overall and specifically for poc), the system there is also generally more egalitarian. When Kaluuya goes into an audition no one is going to ask him “what school did you go to?”, they don’t really care, they just want to see what he can do. When you think about it, many American actors and big movie stars are untrained; they simply learned on the job or had a knack for it, auditioned and got a break. That’s much rarer in the UK.

        I don’t know exactly how my point relates to Jackson’s comments but he does seem to have a view of the UK industry and the UK acting industry that’s pretty idealistic.

      • Tina says:

        I don’t necessarily disagree, msd, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing that lots of UK actors are well trained. Daniel Kaluuya may not have gone to drama school, but he went to an outstanding state school (I’ve never read such a glowing Ofsted report) of which Michael Gambon and Peter Sellers are alumni.

      • Sandy says:

        It’s seems too me that Brit actors are relegated to harder drama roles, and that the education over in GB is focused mostly on theater. So I do wonder how well-rounded I’m supposed to take trained Brit actors to be. I rarely see trained British actors take on straight comedy and I agree with another commenter that sometime the classically trained actors have a harder time in less theatrical, naturalistic roles. I don’t know is that either side is “better”, they are just stronger in different areas.

  40. Princess says:

    Well are British blacks from the Caribbean annoyed that Nigerian Brits are getting most of the acting jobs, and also doing very well in the music industry. Black people in the UK with African parents appear to be more highly motivated.

    • Tina says:

      This is a Pandora’s box of issues that you have opened up, Princess. It’s one of the reasons that simple race-based preferences don’t work very well. Britons with immediate African ancestry are more likely to go to university than Britons with Caribbean ancestry. Britons with Indian ancestry are more likely to go to university than Britons with Bangladeshi or Pakistani ancestry. Britons with Chinese ancestry are the most likely to go to university, by far, of any ethnic group. And all of the above groups are more likely to go to university than white working class Britons.

    • Kat90 says:

      I hate that false narrative that African Britain s work harder than Caribbean British.

  41. spidey says:

    All those WWII films with American actors playing Germans, French……………………..

  42. Anna says:

    To be honest, I actually agree with him specifically about the film Get Out and about Selma. I think a lot of folks posting here are missing his point with comments trying to equate white actors from UK or saying it doesn’t matter. It does matter when it comes to very specific stories that are rooted in African-American history–Dr. King being one of the greatest figures in our collective U.S. history–and in very specific African-American experience here in the U.S. Acting is acting, yes, but there *is* something to be said for an actor who can really step into the shoes of a character from an experiential point of view and not just getting stopped by the police (though that is certainly a huge issue and one that can often lead to death by this white supremacist system so I am certainly not downplaying that in any way). Get Out is about the entire history and fabric of the United States, about its founding as a nation and the blood that Black people have shed, the collective trauma that stretches over one of the most evil and intentionally hidden histories–on the part of mainstream and white people–in history. Being an Black immigrant family to UK of means or not having that same history in one’s daily life and familial experience, not U.S.-specific, not those reference points that could bring a deeper level of understanding and portrayal to the character–so, yes, there is something missing. It’s fine for Black UK actors to play roles in U.S. films, of course, but there are certain roles–and I believe this is what Jackson is referring to–that really should be brought to life by those from whom the core issues and experiences have sprung.

  43. Giulia says:

    American actors, white and black, are facing tough competition from Brit actors working here, this is a thing. It used to be non-Brit actors were restricted from taking roles in their productions, don’t know whether that is still the case. The thing is, British actors are great–versatile, well trained, and no fancy dancy prejudices against working in tv, etc. I think the competition is good and healthy if it encourages American actors to be better.

    • Nn says:

      Actually, they are just cheaper to hire, hence the British invasion we saw a few years ago.
      I personally prefer a more natural acting style which many brits do not do because of the theater training that they do. For me it doesn’t translate to film very well.
      I think hiddleston and cumberbatch are terrible film actors but probably great on stage.

  44. anon says:

    I second John Boyega’s comments …this is why the world will implode before humanity solves it’s issues. Doesn’t matter what issue gets brought up, someone always has to be on top. Human nature.

  45. Veronica says:

    I think it’s fine in cases like John Boyega in SW because the role isn’t tied to any prominent cultural issues. But I do think he has a thoughtful point about British black actors in movies that address race in American culture because we have a very distinct history of slavery, prejudice, and segregation (legal and economic) that is not completely mirrored in British culture. This isn’t suggesting that racism doesn’t exist in Britain, but these are intrinsic cultural conflicts that can only be fully understood through actual experience. I can see why an African American would feel that somebody of Afro-British heritage may not be approaching those roles from the same perspective.

  46. squints says:

    Maybe Trump can help with that.

  47. applepie says:

    It’s amazing isn’t it……In a world where we are so aware of our race or religion, this is dividing us, not bringing us together.

  48. jmacky says:

    Sam Jackson might also have specifically said it about Get Out, not because Daniel Kaluuya isn’t brilliant but because as Jordan Peele says initially, he had some trepidation with Brits taking American roles and Key and Peele had a sketch specifically about this very issue. Played around the time of the Wire and a humorous reaction to the casting of the Wire, Idris Elba (be praised and idolized by me forever, none withstanding): http://www.cc.com/video-clips/8oygnl/key-and-peele-playing-a-thug—uncensored

    There is something to the way acting as a profession is viewed in Britain v. America—the U.S. are more film and photogenic centric, whereas Brits study plays and theatre, and big names will take small character roles. There are exceptions of course, but Brits do have versatility, Americans get typecast so quickly. And that has to do with how the U.S. makes movies “products”, sale-able in the global film industry and audience relationships with “stars.”