Samuel L. Jackson, one of the most prolific actors for the past years, suggested that Jordan Peele's "Get Out" could have benefited from the casting of an African-American actor in the lead role. British actor Daniel Kaluuya nabbed the part.
“Daniel grew up in a country where they've been interracial dating for a hundred years,” the "Kong: Skull Island" star said. “What would a brother from America have made of that role? Some things are universal, but (not everything).”
Jackson clarified his comment after negative reactions were tweeted, one of whom deemed it stupid to pit African American actors against their British counterparts. The veteran actor had a point, as Hollywood had been working in an interesting way. A look at the bigger picture would reveal unflattering generalizations.
Hollywood would love British actors, as their background in the theater gave them an edge over their American colleagues. Jackson didn't sound bitter when he pointed that British thespians have lower talent fee, which was the case with Marvel Studios. (Let's not forget the DC Comics as well.) The US had been the land of opportunities for many decades, prompting Europeans to travel across the Atlantic to seek greener pastures. Sophie Okonedo, who received an Academy Award nomination for "Hotel Rwanda" (2004), noted that there was a huge difference on the number of scripts she received in her native England and the US. It would apply to white British actors as well. (Charlie Chaplin and Cary Grant tried their luck in America, never looking back.) There was something else.
Jackson's (Afro-American) peers rushed to his defense, even wondering why they couldn't tell their own stories. In fairness to them, they have a point. Black actors don't get the meaty roles during studio days. Sidney Poitier, son of Bahamian farmers, achieved A-list status (and an Oscar) in the 1960s, which paved way for other black actors. It took several decades before a black actress finally nabs the Academy Award for Best Actress. On the other hand, African-American actors may need to up their game. After all, foreign talents working in Hollywood have to work twice as hard for recognition. In the case of British actors, they honed their craft in Shakespeare's plays. It was good enough. There's another angle to consider in this issue.
Brazilian veteran actress Sonia Braga acidly remarked that the Best Actress Oscar category would always have a space for Meryl Streep. There was no doubt about Streep's talent, but Hollywood might have sanctified her after her less-flattering assessment of Walt Disney. Let's not forget how her passionate speech during the Golden Globe Awards, which encouraged other actors to do the same. Branding has been part of the trade while studio bosses were leery of anything (or anyone) not making millions in profit. British actors may have less market value in America, but they would be guaranteed work. This could be the top prize for any actor, and Jackson felt that African-American actors have been fighting for crumbs for decades. Why not call out the chefs who bake it?