Artistic Borders

    Jules Winnfield, Zeus Carver, Mace Windu are all names that are familiar to film fans around the world. The Bible-quoting hitman, the reluctant, foul-mouthed, heroic, John McClane sidekick and the black Jedi. These characters, along with dozens – over one hundred – others, were brought to life by one man; Samuel L. Jackson.

   Samuel L. Jackson is one of the finest actors working today. He is also one of the hardest working having already appeared in over one hundred films with several either due to arrive in 2017 or slated for 2018. He is a man in demand. It was not always like that. Jackson achieved fame and acclaim late, not becoming well known until his mid-forties. A veteran of the business and having overcome substance abuse problems he had in younger years, Jackson wears his fame comfortably, exuding confidence and fulfilling the role of Samuel L. Jackson, movie star.

   Popular on both sides of the Atlantic, he is a regular in celebrity pages, on talk shows and in the press. He has talked of a love of golf, how seeing himself on screen is fantastic and fronted an important campaign highlighting awareness of testicular cancer. Jackson is no wallflower.

   Recently he has been in the press opining on the seemingly popular fad of casting black British actors for African-American roles. He asks, somewhat rhetorically, if African-American roles cannot be filled by African-American actors? Hmm. No doubt there are many African-American actors who, seeing the likes of David Oyelowo, Idris Elba, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Thandie Newton, John Boyega and most recently Daniel Kaluuya, have wondered what it is they have to do to be considered for such leading roles? Brush up on their English accents perhaps?

   Truth be told, Jackson’s comments are somewhat misguided considering his own situation. I doubt he is required to audition for the ‘Samuel L. Jackson’ like parts that are offered to him! Also in a country whose track record in race relations and African-American relations, in particular, is so poor, they still manage to have several notable figures who wield enough power and influence to not only get films made but bankroll them as well.

     With an entire network – BET: black entertainment television – dedicated to black televisual output as well as powerful producers and movers and shakers in entertainment, the avenues for black actors Stateside are many and varied, thus attracting talent from this side of the pond, where the opportunities for actors of colour are few and far between.

   Whereas the ‘Oscarssowhite’ hashtag was trending for the last couple of award ceremonies in the US, as actors of colour felt their contributions were being overlooked, here in Blighty such hashtags would be somewhat redundant as there is barely enough media featuring people or persons of colour to consider for awards.

   I suspect that Samuel had probably been hanging out with some of his lesser known black acting buddies and they got to whining about how them damn ‘Brits’ keep nabbing the plum roles. Samuel, being a good guy, felt that he could voice the concerns of some of his fellow black thesps, helping them out perhaps. He was wrong.

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