By Arturo R. García
“It matters to Elba that while this diversity of work is available in TV drama, the same is not yet true of film. ‘Imagine a film such as Inception with an entire cast of black people – do you think it would be successful?’ Elba asks. ‘Would people watch it? But no one questions the fact that everyone’s white. That’s what we have to change.
“His solution – apart from continuing to play roles that require a good actor rather than one who is necessarily black – is to take matters into his own hands. Elba sees himself increasingly as an entrepreneur, with his own record label, TV and film-producing projects, and says he intends to set about producing the kind of films he thinks are missing. ‘I’ll direct myself and I’ll be colour blind and gender blind,’ Elba proclaims. ‘I’ll show that it can be done.”
–Excerpted from “The god in Idris Elba.”
Photo credit: BeeGadget
By Arturo R. García
Let me say up-front that this, ultimately, is an exercise in casting for fun. It is not intended to suggest that casts comprised entirely of people of color are “THE ANSWER.” To suggest that one must choose between calling for more POCs to be cast in race-neutral roles, or calling for the creation and development of more standout characters of color – be they heroic, villainous or otherwise – is to enable a false dichotomy. There’s good reasons why Luke Cage is best played by a Black actor and why Bruce Wayne could be played by, say, an Asian-American actor. (He’s not in this particular version, but I’m not saying an Asian-American actor or actress couldn’t pull it off, and if you’ve got any choices of your own, please feel free to chime in in the comments.)
If anything, the Chromatic meme puts the lie to the premise that “there’s not enough [x] actors to make it work” or “people wouldn’t go see an [x] actor in a general-market lead role.” Showing that there are actors of color out there, each of them with established fan bases, who could step into these “iconic” roles only supports the call for a greater variety of roles for them, and for the next wave of POC actors, because it shows that there are “enough” of them out there for both consumers and business interests to take a chance on.
With that established, here we go. A ton of pics, and some spoilers for Nolan’s Batman series are under the cut.
By Arturo R. Garcia
Verily, these be dire times for the brave souls at the Council of Conservative Citizens: not only is Marvel Comics once again publishing a comic book starring an African character, but at least one member of the overall ensemble cast in the upcoming Thor movie adaptation will be – gasp! – black! You can almost hear the call ring out:
Idris Elba as Heimdall? Forsooth! THEY TOOK OUR GODS! Robblerobblerobble …
By Arturo R. García
Formulaic? Sure. But in a year of feel-good network pap like Hawaii Five-O and Undercovers, Luther at least provides a taut, nasty little respite, and a place where Idris Elba can stretch his character-building muscles a bit.
As I said in previewing the show, Elba’s title character is something relatively rare in the realm of POC tv gumshoes: he’s not the Cool Guy. In fact, the show wastes little time in establishing him as a latter-day pulp figure: he may be smart, but he’s far from smooth.
By Arturo R. García
TV Guide lists 28 “must-watch” new shoes in its’ fall preview section. Of those, six are police procedurals. None of them has a POC protagonist.
Not listed in that summary, and not made in this country, is Luther, a BBC production starring The Wire’s Idris Elba. The show starts airing on BBC America Oct. 17, but from what I’ve seen, Elba, who also served as an executive producer on the show, has helped craft something occasionally creepy, sometimes unnerving, but not bad at all.
No spoilers here, but the show does follow the Law & Order storytelling style: the crimes are presented “realistically” enough to warrant a trigger warning and the baddies are true bastards, indeed. But the show’s less about whodunit than what DCI John Luther is going to do next.
By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
In the wake of that disturbing article in Fade In magazine, there’s at least one black producer out there with a film opening this weekend, and some of the objections Will Packer says he faced early in his career parallel those we heard about in the Fade In piece: that films featuring African-Americans were “niche films” for “a niche audience.”
“It’s tough to get any film made – black, brown, it doesn’t matter. It’s definitely still tough as African-American film makers because they (traditional Hollywood studios) don’t make as many african-american themed films as they do other films, so you’ve got smaller windows of opportunity. But it’s certainly different than it was 20 years ago.”
Packer’s latest film, Obsessed, features a relative host of “niche” story points: Not only are two of the three leads – Idris Elba and a non-singing Beyonce Knowles – POCs, but there’s an interracial aspect to the Fatal Attraction-ish scenario presented, involving Elba’s character and a temp played by Ali Larter. Packer says there was always an interracial factor in the story, but only as a backdrop.
“I think that audiences are a lot more sophisticated now,” Packer says. “You certainly can portray inter-racial relationships but you have to do it in a realistic way. In our film, it’s not about race – it’s interesting that the husband happens to be black, but it’s nothing that we feel the need to make any more provocative or to otherwise single out that fact.”
Packer says his successful film, 2007’s Stomp The Yard, also had to fight the “niche” argument.“Nobody saw Stomp The Yard coming,” Packer says. “But we tapped into an audience that was a cross-section of dance-movie fans and African-American audiences who knew about college life, and we managed not only to open No. 1 at the box office, but to hold the No. 1 spot for another week. Suddenly people in Hollywood were trying to call us, and asking, ‘What do you mean, they don’t have agents?’.”
The film went on to gross $75 million worldwide.Packer says the “nobody saw us coming” thing started as soon as he and director Rob Hardy founded Rainforest Productions and made their first film, Trois, in 2000.“We didn’t have a film school. We didn’t have money. We didn’t have connections. We didn’t have long-standing Hollywood relationships,” Packer says.
“I wanted to start a film production company. My partner wanted to be the next Spike Lee. We moved to Atlanta because we felt that was a market where we could be a big fish in a small pond. We made Trois, and nobody in Hollywood cared. We literally drove city-to-city and handed out flyers, shook hands, kissed babies and we convinced 19 theatre owners to run our movie for one weekend. Then we went out and hustled, got the word out. That film made over $1 million dollars.”
Despite the success he’s enjoyed in producing films geared toward audiences of color, Packer says things are still very difficult. “People don’t have any single viable studio catering to that audience,” he says. And how far off is that studio?
“Distribution is still kind of the final frontier, and that’s still very difficult,” Packer says. “If African-American audiences and mainstream audiences respond to that kind of material, then it’ll happen.”