Published on April 17, 2017 | by Brandon Vieira Photography by Paramount Pictures0
Wishy washy ways no longer warranted in the film industry
Toronto Film School graduate and young Indian actor Ronak Singh says it’s upsetting to know that one day a role that is written for someone like him will end up being given to a white actor.
Singh and other film lovers say Asian actors don’t exist in Hollywood. At least that is what they’re starting to think after the string of controversies surrounding white actors being cast in Asian roles in Hollywood.
“The fact that [Hollywood producers] don’t believe people that look like me can sell blockbuster movies is upsetting but something I knew would happen when I decided to become an actor. I know one day there will be roles that I’m auditioning for and would be perfect for me and they’ll end up going to a white actor,” says Singh.
Philbert Lui who is the marketing manager of Reel Asian Film Festival says that is why festivals like Reel Asian and others exist.
“There’s a lack of opportunity for Asian actors and filmmakers in Hollywood. They have this mindset that non-Caucasian actors won’t bring in revenue,” says Lui.
“We provide Asian people a chance to showcase their talent and their work, stories and perspectives that Hollywood is unlikely to show,” says Lui.
Lui says if Hollywood studio heads were to really pay attention to the track record of their films they would see that movies with white leads flop just as much as actors of colour.
“There seems to be a different benchmark for white actors and actors of colour. Movies with white leads don’t get nearly as scrutinized for flopping as movies with actors of colour do,” says Lui.
“Ghost in the Shell” has been criticized by thousands of moviegoers on social media for casting white actress Scarlett Johansson to play the role of a Japanese character.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the movie did poorly, earning only $19 million on its opening night and ranking third in the box office. It was also ripped apart by critics.
However, this isn’t the only film or television show to have experienced a whitewashing controversy. In the last year, both “Death Note” and “Doctor Strange” have been raked over the coals on social media.
John Bourgeois who has had roles in many movies including “X-Men: Apocalypse” and “The Prince and Me” and is currently the program director for acting for film and television at Humber College says producers pay attention to the reactions their films receive on social media. He says all producers care about is money and if audiences show that they will no longer pay money to see whitewashing, eventually they will have no choice but to stop doing it.
“People want to see an accurate representation of society on the big screen. People are starting to realize the best way to evoke change is to avoid seeing these movies. With the results of the box office of ‘Ghost in the Shell’ we’re starting to see that this approach is working,” says Bourgeois.
According to young actress and Windsor graduate Alyson Parovel, there may still be work to do but she has seen progress made when it comes to looking for diverse casts.
“Something that I’ve noticed with every casting notice I get is that they say we highly encourage actors of all ethnicities to come and audition. I don’t know if I’m completely sold on it yet but I guess it shows some steps are starting to be taken,” says Parovel.
Parovel says that audiences can only do so much to prevent whitewashing from happening. She says actors have a responsibility as well to make sure every actor gets an equal shot at a role.
“White actors like myself need to not take diversity as a threat. We are not entitled to these roles. We need to realize that there’s enough roles for everyone of all races to play,” says Parovel.