Photo credit: Universal Pictures
In an interview with New York radio station Hot 97 last month, Samuel L. Jackson criticised Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, for selecting British actor Daniel Kaluuya to star in its lead role rather than an African-American actor.
‘I know the young brother who’s in the movie, and he’s British…I tend to wonder what would that movie have been with an American brother who really understands that in a way,’ Jackson commented. ‘Some things are universal, but everything ain’t.’
Get Out, which holds a 99% approval rating on popular review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, tells the story of an African-American man, Chris, visiting his white girlfriend’s family. Her father emphasises that he ‘would have voted for Obama for a third term’ if he could, but it becomes apparent that they have sinister plans for Chris. In an interview with Forbes, director Jordan Peele said the story is ‘very personal.’
Following Jackson’s comments, British actor John Boyega tweeted, ‘Black brits vs African American. A stupid ass conflict we don’t have time for.’ Kaluuya said in an interview with GQ, ‘I resent that I have to prove that I’m black.’
John Boyega’s tweet regarding Samuel L. Jackson’s comments about Get Out
Jackson quickly clarified his comments to the Associated Press, stating, ‘It was not a slam against them [Jordan Peele and Daniel Kaluuya], but it was just a comment about how Hollywood works in an interesting sort of way sometimes.’
However, Boyega brought up Jackson’s comments again in an interview with ES Magazine on 20 April, saying, ‘I love him but he didn’t have to go there…I just think there’s no end result in black Brits and African Americans going back and forth at each other…the black experience is a layered one and his comments didn’t represent that.’
People are still divided in their opinions on Jackson’s comments, with Twitter user @lightskinronin writing, ‘Be as mad as you want, @SamuelLJackson was right about Get Out,’ and Twitter user @TallerThanLife writing, ‘Now I’ve seen “Get Out” I realise how misguided Samuel L. Jackson’s comments were. The racism in that film is globally relatable’.
Twitter users are divided regarding Samuel L. Jackson’s criticism of Get Out
Jackson’s comments have raised the question of whether it’s okay for actors from other countries to play roles in films that focus heavily on issues pertaining to a specific group of people. With films like Ghost in the Shell also facing criticism for casting a lead actor with a different background than their character, this issue isn’t going away and raises the question: to what extent should an actor identify with their role?