Amandla Stenberg Said No To Black Panther Role To Make Space For Darker Actresses

And power to her!

Amandla Stenberg Said No To Black Panther Role To Make Space For Darker Actresses

by Amel Mukhtar |
Published on

Amandla Stenberg has revealed in an interview with CBC that she walked away from a role in Black Panther (which has become one of the highest-grossing films of all time) to create room for darker-skinned actresses.

She told the interviewer: ‘One of the most challenging things for me to do was to walk away from Black Panther. I got really, really close and they were like, “do you want to continue fighting for this?” And I was like, this isn't right.

‘These are all dark skin actors playing Africans and I feel like it would have just been off to see me as a bi-racial American with a Nigerian accent just pretending that I'm the same colour as everyone else in the movie.’

And it was absolutely the right thing to do.

It's not easy to be a black actress in Hollywood. The creation of roles is one major problem, but sometimes it's even hard to get cast in your own stories. A couple years ago Chris Rock spoke out about the struggle he faced getting Tichina Arnold cast as his mother in Everyone Hates Chris as exes questioned whether the role had to be played by a black woman. They didn’t want a black woman to play his mother… who was a black woman…

What's more, once they've gotten past both hurdles and gotten booked they're usually severely underpaid.

And the problem doesn't stop at black representation. Colourism means that once roles are created for black women, they're usually handed to light-skinned actresses. This follows even in roles that dictate the casting of a dark-skinned woman – like the Nina Simone biopic, in which light-skinned Zoe Saldana was instead cast and blacked up.

You can see how deep Hollywood's problem with racism goes when it doesn't end at on-screen representation and a dark-skinned lead is instead played by a light-skinned actress with prosthetics. Those that claim such castings are a matter of the pull of the actress’s name rather than her shade (although there are plenty of big-name dark-skinned actresses) ought to reflect on how those actresses got to be so much more in-demand than their darker counterparts if so. Not exactly a chicken and egg problem.

Amandla had her own controversies about taking up roles made for darker women in the past. When she was cast as lead for the adaptation of The Hate U Give there was an outcry from fans of the YA novel at a mixed-race actress playing the black and implicitly dark protagonist. The effect of these castings like these is that biracial women like Zendaya, Yara Shahidi and Amandla come to represent black girlhood.

But it seems like she's listening and is bold enough to turn down personal opportunities for the greater purpose of fair representation in media. Let's hope casting execs take note so that it doesn't fall to actresses to deny themselves a role (particularly when great roles for black women, light and dark alike, aren't easy to come by) and instead, those in charge actively seek the plethora of black female talent out there.

God knows we're all hungry for it!

You can follow Amel on Twitter: @AmelAMukhtar.

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us