Samuel L. Jackson never bites his tongue, especially when it comes to representation in movies. But earlier this year, comments Jackson made about English actor Daniel Kaluuya starring as a black American character in Get Out ruffled a few people’s feathers.
“I know the young brother who’s in the movie, and he’s British,” Jackson said about Kaluuya. “There are a lot of black British actors that work in this country. All the time. I tend to wonder what would that movie have been with an American brother who really understands that in a way. Because Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for a hundred years. Britain, there’s only about eight real white people left in Britain … what would a brother from America have made of that role? I’m sure the director helped. Some things are universal, but everything ain’t.”
Jackson spoke further about black Brits playing African-American characters: “They don’t cost as much. Unless you’re an unknown brother that they’re finding somewhere. 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.”
When it comes to black English actors over the last several years, there’s one that stands out from the pack. From his role as Stringer Bell on The Wire to his most recent role in The Dark Tower, Idris Elba has become a force to be reckoned with. And this black British actor had a few words about Jackson’s remarks.
“I was really disappointed in those comments. We are dissected as a people; why dissect us any further as a comment that’s as stupid as that?” Elba told The Root in an interview.
Jackson may have opened up the conversation about black British actors, but Elba did not discount Jackson’s work in his response.
“Black actors all over the world look at Samuel L. Jackson as a great actor that happens to black. The idea that he can dissect us into English actors that are black, stealing roles from American actors, is really ignorant and made of things that divide us instead of pulling us together,” Elba continued.
As Elba’s and other black English actors’ stars rise, African-American actors will hopefully take heed of Elba’s words and realize that further dividing a group of people with a common bond isn’t worth it in the long run.