Hollywood’s long-standing debate regarding race and casting was rekindled last week when actor Michael B. Jordan opened up about online critics of his being cast as the Human Torch in the upcoming “Fantastic Four” reboot.
In a candid essay published in Entertainment Weekly, Jordan pushed back against people on the Internet who were angry that a black actor was cast as a comic book superhero illustrated with blond hair and blue eyes.
Actress Zoe Saldaña, whose casting as Nina Simone in an upcoming biopic has also drawn fire, spoke out in support of Jordan in a Facebook post.
The Dominican-American actress shared the essay over the weekend and turned the argument on its head, asking critics to instead question Hollywood’s practice of casting white actors to portray people of color.
Saldaña specifically pointed out the times when white actors were picked to portray people of color like journalist Mariane Pearl and Shakespeare's Othello.
“The list goes on .... and on .... and on ... Let's not throw rocks when we all live in glass houses,” she wrote.
Speaking to Fox News Latino in December 2013, the “Avatar” actress said she loves and embraces her Latina-African heritage and would never want to whitewash herself to meet Hollywood standards.
“If I only want to do roles that are about me then I am not being an actor, then I am being a celebrity. I am not into celebrity s-h-i-t,” Saldaña said. “If someone has the ability to see in me that I can play a character no matter what racial background, economical background, cultural background, gender too – because I would love to play a man one day if it’s possible – I would be honored.”
“My composition consists of African heritage as well as European as well as indigenous,” she continued. “The difference between me and a lot of my people is that I love it and I embrace it. And I don’t want to whitewash myself or wash myself of anything, but at the end of the day I want to be considered to be an artist that is gender-less, that is race-less, that is neutral.”
As for Jordan, he hopes that a black actor in role like Johnny Storm will help inspire actors of color for generations to come.
“Sometimes you have to be the person who stands up and says, ‘I’ll be the one to shoulder all this hate. I’ll take the brunt for the next couple of generations.’ I put that responsibility on myself,” he wrote.
“People are always going to see each other in terms of race, but maybe in the future we won’t talk about it as much. Maybe, if I set an example, Hollywood will start considering more people of color in other prominent roles, and maybe we can reach the people who are stuck in the mindset that ‘it has to be true to the comic book.’ Or maybe we have to reach past them.”