Upcoming African American Actresses

African-American Actresses Decry the Lack of Good Roles  February 6, 2015 – 07:17 pm
Upcoming Black Actresses: The new Generation

Wayans’s not-so-shocking response is a fitting comment on the dearth of opportunities offered African-American actresses in film, television, and the media generally. In a year that has seen black women highlighted and showcased as the “help’’ or as disgruntled ex-wives ready to fistfight the next woman in a heartbeat, many in film and television continue to pose the question: will more selective, diverse, and fully developed roles ever be a reality for women of color?

“I didn’t think we’d still be having this same conversation so many years later, ’’ says Wayans, who gained fame with her brothers on the comedy variety show In Living Color. “The 90s were so bright and promising for people of color in Hollywood, and I for one thought it would only get better with the chance for me and other black actresses to portray any number of characters and in all types of stories.’’

Kim Wayans (left) stars as Audrey, and Adepero Oduye (right) stars as Alike, in "Pariah." (©2011 Focus Features)

It didn’t. Though the likes of actresses such as Halle Berry and Mo'Nique have all won Oscars in recent years, some would say they were awarded for stereotypical portrayals of African-American women in controversial films like Monster’s Ball and Precious. And while many African-American actresses say they’re still struggling to find work that fully reflects all facets of black female life, others say they’re struggling to find work at all.

“I remember in the 80s when my sister Phylicia (Rashad) was on the The Cosby Show and I was on Fame, girl, you couldn’t tell me that it wasn’t a brand new day for black women and the way we were portrayed in film and television, ’’ remembers actress and director Debbie Allen. “No one could have told me we’d go in the complete reverse in the decades to come.’’

‘Today there’s nothing but gloom and doom when it comes to stories about us—if there are any stories about us at all.’

The reversal of fortune is not just limited to the number of roles offered to women of color but the type of roles as well. In the 70s Diana Ross and Diahann Carroll won Oscar nominations for leading roles in well-defined parts that highlighted their troubles but also gave the necessary backstory to those troubles as well. Both Lady Sings the Blues and Claudine offered well-rounded views of black women at work and at home, detailing not just the sorrow in their lives but the joy and good times as well. Today’s films featuring women of color seem to go to great lengths to do just the opposite.

“I miss the films that starred black women back during my childhood, says 40-year Letina Richards, a registered nurse from Hartford, Conn. “Even though Lady Sings the Blues was about Billie Holiday and her drug use, it was a beautiful and heartwarming film about a real woman trying to stay alive. Today there’s nothing but gloom and doom when it comes to stories about us—if there are any stories about us at all.’’

After a recent rehearsal for the Broadway play Mountaintop, star Samuel L. Jackson easily rattles off a list of upcoming projects due for release in 2012. His equally talented, Oscar-nominated costar, Angela Bassett, isn’t quite able to do the same. “I’m a black actress, honey—what can I tell you but I have no idea what’s next for me, ’’ says Bassett.

For that reason alone Wayans says she literally jumped for joy when she landed the role of Audrey in the new film Pariah. The heartfelt and well-acted drama follows the life of an African-American teenage girl as she struggles with how to tell her family she’s a lesbian. As the teenager’s controlling mother, Wayans is allowed to display a range of depth and emotion not often seen in black female characters on screen. Pariah is written and directed by Dee Rees, an African-American woman.

Source: www.thedailybeast.com


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