Bill Maher chose to fill his latest New Rules rant with a soap-box commentary on why it's okay to cast white actors as characters of color...because...after all, it is "acting".
Sure...and one day if a movie is made of Bill's life, as an actress and as an African American woman I fully expect to be considered for the role, because only my talent should be considered, right?
In Bill's rant, he does a broad sweep generalization of a subject that is nuanced and complex. And unfortunately, he does it from a privileged vantage point that can’t be bothered to consider the vast history of discrimination that came before it AND STILL clouds much of the casting process. He talks about this issue like every casting choice has always been done on merit, therefore should continue to be the only thing considered when casting. That premise is bullshit even without race introduced. There is a multitude of politics that goes into the casting process….but I digress.
Back to race…..
Bill is a white male, so he either doesn’t know, has not had to experience it, or has chosen NOT to inform himself of the over 100-year practice of excluding people of color when casting.
Bill Maher did not grow up on movies where light-skinned black people played his white heroes, so he doesn’t understand the cry to give actors who are actually in that ethnic group a shot.
I agree, “Wokeness” goes too far in many cases, but I think it’s the nature of correction. First, you go extreme in the other direction then some balance surfaces and you develop an actual standard. That will happen for acting again too. But the days of Natalie Wood being cast as Maria in Westside Story, or John Wayne being cast as Genghis Khan need to be over.
I understand John Leguizamo’s thoughts about the casting of Fidel Castro and I agree. Casting should FIRST SEEK to cast the best talent from the group from which the character originates. Be that ethnicity, gender, or even if the character in question has a handicap. Then, if they can’t find an actor in that group, expand the search.
Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn’t work that way, and systemic racism feeds into that. Hollywood casts actors that are already famous so that people want to see a film based on face recognition. That’s how they make money. But many Latino actors have been excluded from Hollywood for YEARS so don’t have the FAME to be cast in a lead role that requires name recognition. Especially when the role is in a big-budget movie.
If I spend 50 million to make a movie, I’m not gonna cast an actor that folks won’t come to see based on his fame and past body of work. So then systemic racism has lent itself to Hollywood's fear of spending millions that they may not make a profit on if they hire an actual Latino actor with no name recognition.
It’s a vicious cycle…..
Fortunately, people of color are making our own movies. And when they do well, Hollywood comes to us.