Actors Reveal The Racist Things Casting Directors Told Them

Eva Longoria
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Here’s what it’s really like to work in Hollywood if you’re not a straight white man.

As the Oscars approach, several actors, directors, screenwriters, and producers who are not straight white men spoke to the New York Times about the professional experiences inside Hollywood. And many of the celebrities are pulling the curtain behind the racist practices Hollywood desperately tries to keep a secret.

What do you do when someone says, “Your color skin is not what we’re looking for”?

From America Ferrera, star of Ugly Betty and Superstore:

I was 18 and putting myself on tape for a movie I really wanted. I got that phone call: They cast a Latino male in another role in the film; they’re not looking to cast [a Latina]. So I defiantly bleached my hair blond, painted my face white and made the audition tape. I never heard back. I just remember feeling so powerless. What do you do when someone says, “Your color skin is not what we’re looking for”? Let me tell you: Blond does not suit me.

“I couldn’t put you in a Shakespeare movie, because they didn’t have black people then.”

Wendell Pierce, star of the upcoming HBO film Confirmation, encountered a casting director so ignorant that he didn’t know black people lived on planet earth:

In 1985, I’m sitting in the casting office of a major studio. The head of casting said, “I couldn’t put you in a Shakespeare movie, because they didn’t have black people then.” He literally said that. I told that casting director: “You ever heard of Othello? Shakespeare couldn’t just make up black people. He saw them.”

 

I remember moving to L.A. and auditioning and not being Latin enough for certain roles. Some white male casting director was dictating what it meant to be Latin.

Eva Longoria, star of Desperate Housewives, Telenovela and producer of Desperate Housewives, discussed how casting directors bashed her in the audition room.

I didn’t speak Spanish [growing up]. I’m ninth generation. I mean, I’m as American as apple pie. I’m very proud of my heritage. But I remember moving to L.A. and auditioning and not being Latin enough for certain roles. Some white male casting director was dictating what it meant to be Latin. He decided I needed an accent. He decided I should [have] darker-colored skin. The gatekeepers are not usually people of color, so they don’t understand you should be looking for way more colors of the rainbow within that one ethnicity.

Julia Roberts also discussed how sexist producers were when she was starring in the Oscar winning movie Erin Brockovich:

I remember my first meeting with the producers on “Erin Brockovich,” before Steven Soderbergh came onto it, and saying, “This scene where she’s shimmying down a well in a micromini? I can’t do that.” [They said], “But that’s really what happened.” And I go, “I know, but once you make it a movie, you have to re-examine, what’s the function of this scene?” I didn’t feel I was being fully understood. People assumed it was about my sense of modesty. And you just think, “No, you’re not hearing what I’m saying.” Steven and I were very in sync on how we wanted to portray her — the sexiness as well as the soul — and I didn’t have to wear a micromini shimmying down a well.

The article features anecdotes from a ton of A-list actors, producers, and directors. It is definitely an inside look at the hypocriticalness of Hollywood.

You can read the story here.

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