America the Holy Grail?

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So  having been in the acting circuit for a while now my experiences as black actress in the UK have in some way confirmed what I have always known:  the United Kingdom is not all embracing towards a black face…..sorry a black female, on national TV.

I know the industry is constantly evolving, continually re-inventing itself, however as a black actress I feel these changes are not in my favour. Having briefly worked in New York (theatre) and having spent some time in the US, I can’t help but notice the gravitas and status black performers have over there. The casting system is much more diverse and more accepting of new actors. This is expressed within dramas such as The Wire and Without a Trace, where you have excellent black actors such as Marie Jean Baptise gracing the screens with her prevailing presence.

Yet the question that always bugs me is: Why do these British black actors have to cross the Atlantic to gain recognition for their hard work? Determined to confront this issue, in the past I had been adamant that before I even dream of working in the states, I must establish myself in the UK. So I worked in great theatres, made some good connections and even started my own theatre company: Golden Delilah……but that still isn’t enough to change the mentalities of narrow minded individuals.

In audition situations: every audition I go to, if I didn’t get it I was down to the last two. However a pattern is now emerging, most of the girls who got the parts I went for were of mixed race heritage. Now this is a brilliant thing and it is great to see the industry embracing ethnics, however surely there are some parts for black women or is there? I mean the BBC seems to be ticking both boxes by having any part that is not white, played by a mixed race actress. For the middle

England, Nick Griffin supporters, it’s not that offensive is it?

I mean mixed race people are the best of both worlds. This thought was later re-enforced when an industry professional informed me that agents don’t know how to sell someone like me and that I (black actresses) was ‘simply not in fashion’.

I went from being an award winning actress (Alan Bates Outstanding Newcomer Award) with a great future to look forward to, to a black actress discard by the industry; of course this is just how the cookie crumbles. However as I have spent time in the US, I can’t help but see this situation as positive, an opportunity to test the waters state side. Maybe the UK is not ready for an actor of my casting, may be in order to contribute to a slow change I need to become a named actor, only then could my pleas be heard. I believe the UK isn’t really worth being in if your a black actress. And as black British born actress it really upsets me that I believe this……..but unfortunately this is true. So while I am still young I want to explore and gain an in-depth understanding of the acting industry US style.

Having received exciting news, that Day One, a short film in which I play the lead has just been accepted in the New York City International Film Festival, I will be gracing the NYC shores very soon. So at least I have something to look forward to in 2011…….but what do all my peers, all the highly talented black actresses in the UK, what do they have to look forward to? More roles, where maybe they are just too dark to play?



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