Continuing our series on Racial Equality in Film
There were no people of color nominated at this year’s 2011 Academy Awards. This absence left some people wondering? Where are the diverse faces both in front and behind the camera? What’s being done to improve diversity in Hollywood? So we decided to look at a few actors who have made quite a contribution to the film industry plus look into what’s being done to improve the diversity in Hollywood.
Sidney Poitier was born on February 20, 1927 in Miami Florida but was raised in the Bahamas. He served for a short time in the United States Army then moved to New York to pursue a career in acting. He debuted in Hollywood in 1950 and received an Oscar for his role in Lillies of the Field (1963). He became the first Black actor to receive an Oscar. In the 1970’s he began to direct. One of his most notable films that he directed was Stir Crazy (1980) with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. In 1974, he was knighted and is able to use the term “Sir” although he chooses not to do so. In 2002, he received an honorary Oscar. He has served as an ambassador to Japan as a non-resident Bahamian and also to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Will Smith began his career rapping at the age of twelve and met Jeff Townes at the age of sixteen. They formed DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. When he made his first steps into acting he appeared in the T.V. show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. After his show, he had small appearances in films before his big break. Since then Will Smith has cemented himself in Hollywood as one of summer biggest box office draws.
Alaina Reed Hall
Alaina Reed Hall, born, Bernice Ruth Reed, was an American Actress best known for her portrayal as Olivia on Sesame Street as well as appearing in 227. She passed away in 2009 from breast cancer. Regina King wrote a blog for the Huffington Post discussing how race affects which actors are mentioned in the Oscar memoriam.
Although, minorities in film and television still have a long way to go. There has been great efforts to discover and develop culturally and ethnically diverse talent. Everywhere from ABC Diversity Showcase which is explained;
“ ABC’s Talent Showcase has established an industry standard in creating opportunities for talent, with the majority of participants being given the chance to audition for a variety of ABC (and other networks’) pilots and on-going programming.”
Also, the Diversity acting workshop in Santa Fe is a joint effort between Robert Redford Enterprises and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) it’s goal which is explained by Rebecca Yee states,
“The New Mexico Film Office and the state of New Mexico to provide new actors from underrepresented communities with the skills, tools and opportunities to be competitive and successful in the television and film industry,” said Rebecca Yee, national director of SAG Affirmative Action and Diversity. This program is an example of the benefits of affirmative action. No quotas or mandatory hiring— just doing what we can to level the playing field that is clearly still very unequal.”
What do you think? Has diversity improved for actors in film and television? Do you think more should be done to improve the equality among actors in film and television?