There has been quite the debate on whether actors from across the pond should actively portray American stories, especially those that pertain to racial wars that have continuously plagued the country. For British actor Daniel Kaluuya, the joy that was felt after the extreme success of and praise for his performance in the Jordan Peele 2017 film Get Out was met with a little pushback after a legendary actor criticized the choice in his casting.
Prior to Kaluuya’s appearance in Get Out, he acted in a few British films. He was then cast in roles in such films as Johnny English Reborn and Kick-A** 2. His performance on an episode of Black Mirror would then appeal to Peele, who then sought him out for the lead role of “Chris Washington” in Get Out.
The performance would become a massive success for Kaluuya and soon would be known as his breakthrough role. Jordan Peele shared that his decision to cast Kaluuya was simply “because at the end of the day, he was the best person for the role. He did the audition and it was a slam dunk,” reported The Observer.
Just as well, Kaluuya shared in an interview with Vulture that he is aware of the stigma of a Black Brit portraying an African American character. “I know what it means to be stopped by police. I’ve been stopped by police a lot. And the party scene, when everyone was highlighting how black Chris was and saying ‘black’ things and being nice. You kind of can’t say anything, because you know the intention is to make people feel welcome, the actor said.
He continued, “However, the impact is making people feel isolated and different because you just want to feel included like you belong. That’s what the conflict is, and that’s what it captured. Only a black guy could write this, only someone that lives this. I’ve been to so many parties in England and in America that’s exactly like that, where you’re kind of like seen as Other. When you’re just living your life, and you have to adopt the Other in order to understand and navigate society. That’s what I find really cool about it.
While he gained a new fanbase and massive support from a majority of the public and film critics, legendary actor Samuel L. Jackson expressed some issues with Kaluuya’s inclusion in the film. During an interview with Hot 97’s Ebro In The Morning, Jackson shared his critique on Kaluuya’s portrayal
“I tend to wonder, what would that movie have been with an American brother who really feels that in a way, because Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for 100 years,” the Avengers actor offered.
“It’s only like eight real White people left in Britain,” he jokingly added before continuing, “The rest are mixed. What would a brother from America have made of that role? Some things are universal, but everything ain’t. Which is one of the things about Selma and some other things where I go, you know, ‘There are some brothers from America who could have been in that movie that would have had a different idea about how that works or about how King thinks or how about how King felt.’”
Jackson also feels as though Black British actors are cast in more films than African-Americans because according to him, “they’re cheaper”.
They don’t cost as much. Unless you’re an unknown brother that they’re finding somewhere,” Jackson stated. “They think they’re better trained, for some reason, than we are because they’re classically trained. I don’t know what the love affair is with all that. It’s all good. Everybody needs to work, but there are a lot of brothers here that need to work too. They come here because there are more opportunities, and they actually get paid when they work here. Which is fine.”
Jackson’s comments were brought up to Kaluuya while he was interviewed for GQ. The actor responded by praising Jackson for his legendary achievements saying that he is “a guy who has broken down doors. He has done a lot so that we can do what we can do.”
Kaluuya then offered his take on the ongoing debate on Black Brits vs. American actors as well as Jackson’s comments. “Here’s the thing about that critique, though. I’m dark-skinned, bro. When I’m around black people I’m made to feel ‘other’ because I’m dark-skinned,” he replied. “I’ve had to wrestle with that, with people going ‘You’re too black.’ Then I come to America and they say, ‘You’re not black enough.’ I go to Uganda, I can’t speak the language. In India, I’m black. In the black community, I’m dark-skinned. In America, I’m British. Bro!”
Kaluuya went on to state that Black people’s experience in Britain went through a similar experience with racism issues of their own, which still resonates today. The actor also provided information on London’s history with various riots that were triggered by police brutality for Black people there, which he says does not show up in “mainstream media”, but he has experienced it himself. Ultimately, Kaluuyah states that he has “respect for African-American people. I just want to tell Black stories,” he said.
He concluded, “This is the frustrating thing, bro. In order to prove that I can play this role, I have to open up about the trauma that I’ve experienced as a black person. I have to show off my struggle so that people accept that I’m black. No matter that every single room I go to, I’m usually the darkest person there. [Do] you know what I’m saying? I kind of resent that mentality. I’m just an individual. You probably feel that as a writer, too. Just because you’re black, you get taken and used to represent something. It mirrors what happens in the film. I resent that I have to prove that I’m black. I don’t know what that is. I’m still processing it.”
Black brits vs African American. A stupid ass conflict we don’t have time for.— John Boyega (@JohnBoyega) March 8, 2017
Kaluuya has since starred in the films Black Panther and will also appear in the upcoming sequel, as well as Judas and the Black Messiah, which he won both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.