Friday, November 26, 2021

Denzel Flamed for Dismissing Notion of Colorism in Hollywood

fences

*Two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington sat down with BET to dish about his highly anticipated film “Fences,” and made a few questionable comments about the issue of colorism in Hollywood. He also flip-flopped on previous comments he made about the struggle dark-skinned actors face in securing noteworthy roles.

When asked if colorism held darker-skinned actors back from achieving show biz success, Washington dismissed the notion and pointed to his “Fences” co-star Viola Davis to support his belief that the choosing of light-skinned actors over dark-skinned actors for movie roles doesn’t exist.

“One of the best roles for a woman of any color in the last, in a good good while or at least any movie that I’ve been in, a dark-skinned woman has in this film,” he said. “So, as long as you’re being led by outside forces or just being reactionary, then you won’t move forward. You have to continue to get better.”

Washington went on to suggest that being denied a role in a film may not have anything to do with skin tone but rather the actor’s skill level.

“You can say, ‘Oh I didn’t get the part because they gave it to the light-skinned girl, or you can work, and one day — it might take 20 years — and you can be Viola,” he continued. “The easiest thing to do is to blame someone else, the system. Yeah, there’s a possibility, maybe, that you’re not good enough, but it’s easy to say it’s someone else’s fault. But there’s a possibility that you’re not ready and you can still blame it on someone else instead of getting ready.”

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Denzel Washington in Fences
Denzel Washington in Fences

Washington’s comments are the complete opposite of what he said back in 2012, in which he told his daughter Olivia, who also is an actor, that she would have to work harder because she was dark-skinned.

“I tell my daughter — she’s at NYU — I say: “You’re black, you’re a woman, and you’re dark-skinned at that. So you have to be a triple/quadruple threat.” I said: “You gotta learn how to act. You gotta learn how to dance, sing, move onstage.” That’s the only place, in my humble opinion, you really learn how to act. I said: “Look at Viola Davis. That’s who you want to be. Forget about the little pretty girls; if you’re relying on that, when you hit 40, you’re out the door. You better have some chops.”

Davis addressed the issue of colorism in her acceptance speech at the 2016 Screen Actors Guild Awards, during which she thanked the producers of “How to Get Away With Murder” for envisioning a “sexualized, mysterious woman [to] be a 49-year-old, dark-skinned, African-American woman who looks like me.”

Washington has a 10 picture deal with HBO to produce more of August Wilson’s plays over the next 10 years or so, so his disappointing stance on colorism may simply be his way of protecting his creative future in Hollywood.

Meanwhile, below is the social media reaction to Denzel’s comments:

 

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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