Superstar actor Samuel L. Jackson is not known for apologizing for his commentary. The action star has built a reputation for creating nuanced, interesting and hyper-profane characters. From his raging airline passenger intent on getting all these snakes off this !!@@#$ plane, to his internet famous reading of the now huge-selling children’s book parody, “Go the #### to sleep,” Jackson has built a reputation for saying what he pleases and never apologizing for it.
Well, until now…During an appearance on a radio program on Hot 97, Jackson was asked his thoughts about producers casting British actors in films about black Americans, specifically movies like the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic, “Selma,” or the recent horror flick, “Get Out.”
Jackson was clearly playing to his audience, and what he said wasn’t offensive on the surface, but things don’t really have to be offensive these days to create a PR firestorm of raging people who only have a vague idea what actually happened that they’re mad about. Essentially, Jackson reflected that a lot of roles in American-made movies with strong black casts are going to British actors. He wondered, out loud, what “Get Out” may have been like with, “an American brother who really feels that” …
Again, Jackson was clearly in the moment and playing to the Hot 97 audience with his comments … but context is leached away when something is dumped on the internet and shared countless times.
In “Get Out,” Brit actor Daniel Kaluuya goes home with his white girlfriend to meet her parents. Hijinks, as they are wont, ensue. In “Selma,” David Oyelowo is cast as King, something that Jackson is not the only prominent name to comment on.
Jackson’s comments may have just come and gone if not for comments by Star Wars star and black British actor, John Boyega. The guy who developed a huge fan following after playing a renegade Storm Trooper turned Resistance fighter in Episode VII, tweeted out a message calling Jackson’s comments a “stupid” fight people “don’t have time for.”
Jackson didn’t bristle at the criticism, but he did clarify, saying his comments were not to criticize the actors themselves but to comment on the system that seems to feel the need to import actors to play American roles. Jackson called it “Hollywood’s interesting way…” though there was a fair bit of subtext in that choice of words.
After saying American actors are not afforded the same opportunities as British imports, Jackson added that Americans do have “plenty of opportunities…” before complimenting the actors themselves: “I enjoy their work… I enjoy working with them when I have the opportunity to do that.”
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