Samuel L Jackson criticises casting of black British actors in American films

Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams in Get Out. Photograph: Justin Lubin/Universal Pictures

  • Jackson said: ‘Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for a hundred years.’

Samuel L Jackson has criticised the casting of black British actors in roles about American race relations.

In an interview with the New York radio station Hot 97, Jackson suggested that Jordan Peele’s satirical horror film Get Out, which starred British actor Daniel Kaluuya as an African-American man falling victim to white liberal racism, could have benefited from having an American actor as its lead.

“There are a lot of black British actors in these movies,” Jackson said. “I tend to wonder what that movie [Get Out] would have been with an American brother who really feels that.

“Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for a hundred years,” he said. “What would a brother from America have made of that role? Some things are universal, but [not everything].”

Samuel L Jackson on casting black British actors in American roles
Jackson also pointed to Ava DuVernay’s historical drama Selma, which cast David Oyelowo in the role of Martin Luther King, as another example. “There are some brothers in America who could have been in that movie who would have had a different idea about how King thinks,” he said.

Asked why so many British black actors are cast in American roles, Jackson replied: “They’re cheaper than us, for one thing. They don’t cost as much. And they [casting agents and directors] think they’re better trained because they’re classically trained.”

DuVernay herself has indicated that the stage backgrounds of many British actors is one reason for their success in attaining US roles. “I think there’s something about the stage because they have that stage preparation,” she told Buzzfeed in 2013. “Their work is really steeped in the theatre. Our system of creating actors is a lot more commercial.”

Jackson’s comments were denounced on Twitter by British Star Wars actor John Boyega, who wrote: “Black brits vs African American. A stupid ass conflict we don’t have time for.”

In an interview with the Observer, Peele admitted that he didn’t originally want to cast a British actor in the lead “because this movie was so much about the representation of the African-American experience”.

However, Peele said that a Skype session with Kaluuya allayed his concerns. “Once I’d wrapped my head around how universal these themes were, it became easy for me to pick Daniel 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.”

Jackson later clarified his comments on Wednesday in an interview with the Associated Press at the premiere of his latest film Kong: Skull Island.

“It was not a slam against [British actors], but it was just a comment about how Hollywood works in an interesting sort of way sometimes,” Jackson said.

“We’re not afforded that same luxury, but that’s fine, we have plenty of opportunities to work.

“I enjoy their work,” Jackson said of his British counterparts. “I enjoy working with them when I have the opportunity to do that.”

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