Many of you may not know I’ve started my acting career. Cue music “I’m coming out”- by Diana Ross.
As a kid I always wanted to act. Growing up we watched a lot of TV. My mom was the type who would let us watch hours of TV after school and on weekends.
And trust me, it did not cause my sisters and I to become zombies in front of the TV. But in fact, it inspired my twin sister and I to use our imagination acting out the stories we watched on TV. In movies where there was no role for someone like me, I added that role. I was the daughter of Rick and Evelyn on The Mummy. I was one of the mutant kids on X-Men. I was the daughter of Steve Edison on the Wedding Planner and Luke Danes on Gilmore Girls.
Nothing would limit me! I played any ethnicity and would change my voice to sound like different characters. Because of the way the entertainment industry has been, I played numerous lead Caucasian characters. (No one acts out the supporting role).
My twin sister and I had every single Mary-kate and Ashley Olsen movie memorized. I had down the British accent for the Parent Trap with Lindsey Lohan. As I got older I acted out characters like Max on Dark Angel and could play any of the Charmed sisters.
Looking back I now find that there were no lead female characters I could play that looked like me.
So it’s no surprise as I work to take my place in the entertainment industry now, I find that there are hardly any lead roles available to us black women. Especially for those who are not yet very established.
I joined Casting Society of America’s Virtual Town Hall for Black Actors this morning and found that my point of view was accurate according to those established black actors, casting directors and agents.
Lead roles in many TV series and feature films are seeking white actors. Especially major motion pictures like the Marvel movies. And sure, we were recently blessed with the Black Panther from Marvel. But a major downside is that the one black lead character we have is in a secluded community, far away and hidden from the rest of the world.
Marvel Studios recently announced a series of TV shows that introduces female lead super hero characters. She Hulk, Hawkeye, Ms.Marvel, Iron Heart to name a few. Of course the most exciting character for me is Iron Heart. A spin off from Iron Man, Riri Williams is a black female hero who essentially takes the place of Tony Stark while being mentored by Pepper.
It’s a pretty cool idea. But after scrolling through the comments on Marvel’s social media page, most fans are far from happy about this character.
Now just a note, Riri Williams was introduced into the Marvel comics back in 2015. Most fans simply didn’t know much about her.
Their comments are pretty offensive and yet, I actually think there is some validation. I mean, many are wondering, what about Tony’s daughter? Which I totally understand and agree. It would make more sense.
Of course many of my black brothers and sisters are hurt by the narrow minded comments of those truly horrified by the idea of Iron Heart being Riri Williams.
My question then is, why can’t we black women have a super hero with her own story, who’s not confined to Wakanda?
Another tricky aspect of joining the film industry as a black actress is being submitted for the right roles.
Yes, I do appreciate stories of the black community fighting injustice. I’m a little exhausted by the number of black people involved in stories about crime. But I would LOVE to play the lead for a movie and TV series that’s plot did not revolve around me being a minority. I’m exhausted by it. Yes, we all get it, when I walk into a room all eyes are on me because I’m different. But we black people each have a different story to offer that goes beyond our trials and tribulations. In fact many of our individual stories are similar to those that look nothing like us.
When I watch movies and TV series I see myself in many non-black characters displayed. I see myself in Pam from the Office. I see myself in Jess from New Girl. In Beth Harmon from the Queen’s Gambit. The list goes on! But truly, will I ever be an option for any of these roles???
The entertainment industry needs to change. I’m hoping I can be a part of this change.
You can follow my acting career on instagram @ChanelleJ.Holder