Hollywood has always had a problem with misrepresentation and inaccurate portrayals of people of color. While the industry has become more progressive, there was a period where it was considered normal for white actors to play someone of a different ethnicity.
However, as times are changing so are these notorious actors, and it’s only expected that they would eventually speak up against these casting choices.
Most recently, Fisher Stevens opened up about a problematic role he had in the past. Thirty-five years ago, Stevens starred in the 1986 sci-fi comedy film Short Circuit and portrayed an Indian character in brownface. In the film, his character was Indian engineer Ben Jabituya, and the actor also reprised the role in the film’s sequel in 1988.
Short Circuit is not the only film that had this casting issue, and Stevens is not the only actor who has admitted to regretting previous problematic roles.
Here are some actors who have apologized for their past roles brought by problematic casting.
Jake Gyllenhaal admitted in an interview back in 2019 that his role in Disney’s 2010 film Prince of Persia “wasn’t right” for him. Gyllenhaal played the role of Prince Dastan of Persia, the protagonist of the film, which is based on the video game of the same name.
Emma Stone, who is white, starred in the 2015 film Aloha as a character with Chinese and Hawaiian ancestry. The actress mentioned in an interview that she has learned about whitewashing in Hollywood and how big the issue is, and that her problematic role portraying a half-Asian character has “ignited a conversation that is really important”. In 2019, she yelled an apology to actress Sandra Oh at the Golden Globes when she joked about it.
Rooney Mara starred in a 2015 adaptation of Peter Pan as Tiger Lily, a Native American character who lives in Neverland. Mara, who is white, said that she hated being “on that side of the whitewashing conversation” and that she never wants that to happen again. The actress also said that she understands why her problematic role made people upset and frustrated.
For 30 years Azaria voiced Apu, an Indian character, on The Simpsons. The actor’s portrayal of Apu has been called out as offensive and stereotypical. Azaria told New York Times that he no longer wanted to participate in the role anymore after learning what others really thought of the character and his portrayal of it.
Back in 2000, Fallon wore blackface to make an impersonation of comedian Chris Rock on Saturday Night Live. Fallon tweeted an apology later on for the impersonation.
In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface. There is no excuse for this.
I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.
— jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) May 26, 2020
Kristen Bell once portrayed a biracial character named Molly in the animated series Central Park. Her character Molly has one white parent and one Black parent. Bell said in a tweet that playing as Molly in the series shows a “lack of awareness of [her] pervasive privilege” and that casting a white actress to portray a mixed-race character “undermines the specificity of the mixed-race and Black American experience.” Bell quit the role in 2020.
This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity. Heres 1 of mine. Playing the Molly in Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege. Casting a mixed race character w/a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race & Black American experience. pic.twitter.com/8AL8m4K7Uk
— Kristen Bell (@KristenBell) June 25, 2020
Hollywood has come a long way since these wrong castings. Whitewashing may still be a prevalent issue at times but Hollywood is addressing it little by little, by putting more effort into casting diverse characters to make portrayals more authentic and to give proper representation for cultures, ethnicities, and communities.
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