Tony, Grammy and Oscar are quite an illustrious bunch, but it may take years for even the most talented actors to have the privilege to hear their names in the same sentence as the above mentioned. Only ten Blacks have been honored with oscars, and even though it seems that Oscar has befriended more Blacks in recent years, with this distinguished honor, may also come a curse.
Recognizing excellence in cinema achievement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has awarded actors with Academy Awards annually for the past 79 years. For three consecutive years at least one black actor or actress has won an Oscar. Although an Oscar is the utmost form of success for an actor, a question that lingers is why Black actors get less lead roles after winning one.
Some think winning an Oscar changes you. “I think it’s hard for African Americans to get quality roles to begin with, and when you get awards your taste is different, you begin to be picky,” said sophomore, political science major Amber Boyd from Indianapolis, IN.
However, Lillian Gabriel a senior business management and music major from Houston, Texas disagrees. “Once you prove yourself, more people want you and recognize you.”
Some think that it boils down to being typecast. Loyola University student, Stephen Hudson, a senior music education major also from Houston, said it’s hard for actors to move out of a certain role.
“After that they become typecast, whatever their paramount role is, is what they get their future roles in. Halle Berry is sweet and catty and Eddie Murphy is a funny lover.”
But the problem may not be that there are fewer lead roles, rather that it’s harder for an actor that is starting at the top like Jennifer Hudson.
Boyd believes that there are not good roles for black women and particularly full-figure women. “She is a bigger built woman and they don’t make roles for women like that.”
Once an actor plays a pivotal role like Hudson did in Dreamgirls, moviegoers may start to correlate that actor with a specific role.
“If you are really good, people will think of you when doing other movies. Because Jamie Foxx was so good in Ray, when you see him in other movies you think of that performance,” said Gabriel.
Although Boyd believes typecasting plays a role she thinks it’s up to blacks to tell the stories no one else is willing to. “African Americans need to take responsibility and get the story out there about black people.”
Whether it is typecasting or the lack of lead roles, in order to be recognized it is important that you have the proper promotion behind a movie. When you have a successful movie that does well it’s no surprise that the actors in the movie do well also.
Gabriel and Boyd both agree that it has something to do with a movie’s endorsements.
“No one is going to watch a movie that they don’t know is out. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good movie. Losing Isaiah is one of the greatest movies and it didn’t get a lot of media attention,” Boyd expressed.
“It’s like peanut butter and jelly, they go hand in hand. You need promotion so people will know what the movie is about because people don’t want to see a movie with nobodies. You need to go on Oprah and promote that movie, when Oprah speaks, they listen,” Gabriel said.
Typecasting and poor promotion could all be reasons why blacks get less lead roles after winning an Oscar but only time will tell whether being honored with an Oscar is a good thing or a curse.