Asian-Americans are the only minority group seeing a decrease in NY stage roles

Miriam Kreinin Souccar, Crain's New York Business, 1/31/12

A report by the Asian American Performers Action Coalition shows that the number of Asian-Americans cast in productions on Broadway and by the 16 largest not-for-profit theaters in the city is dropping.  Though Asian-Americans comprise 12.9% of New York City, Asian-American actors accounted for only 1.6% of available roles in new productions on Broadway, 3.2% of roles at nonprofit companies and 2.3% of the roles industry-wide. Already minuscule, the number of Asian-Americans on stage is below what it was five years ago -- making them the only minority group not experiencing an increase. Overall, the percentage of minority actors in relation to the total number of roles has increased, hovering at around 21% for the past four years compared to 14% five years ago, the report found. And the number of minority actors cast in non-minority specific roles grew year to year. But much of those gains came from an increase in productions about minority groups. Only 10.6% of all roles this past year were cast without regard to race. African-Americans faired the best of all the minority groups. The percentage of African-American performers jumped to 14% this past year from 8% five years ago. Latino performers doubled their visibility, accounting for 4% of total roles this past season, compared to 2% five years ago. In contrast, Asian-American performers saw their numbers drop, from 3% of all roles five years ago to 1% in the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons with a slight uptick to 2% last season. There were only 18 principal Broadway contracts for Asian-American actors in the last five years.


Commentary: Is Hollywood 'whitewashing' Asian roles?

Stephanie Siek, "In America" blog, 1/13/12

America's embrace of Japanese pop culture, particularly manga and anime, hasn't resulted in an embrace of Asian and Asian-American actors when those storylines go to Hollywood. Two upcoming feature films based on Japanese material are already stirring controversy after rumors that white American actors will be cast as characters originally written as Japanese. Kent A. Ono, a professor of Asian-American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the practice of casting white actors to play Asians and Asian-American characters has a long history in Hollywood. In recent years, Ono said, Asian characters have been replaced with white American versions played by big-name Hollywood stars. As Japanese manga and anime have grown more popular, it has happened in films like "Dragonball: Evolution" and "Speed Racer." "Not only do Asian-American actors find this a displacement of their ability to work as laborers, as performers in these sort of roles -- they also find this an affront to their identity, to their work to overcome racism and be seen as legitimate actors," Ono said.


Black British actors told to head for Hollywood if they want big roles

Adam Sherwin, The Independent [UK], 2/1/12

Black British actors should head to Hollywood as quickly as they can because they won't find leading roles in the UK, David Harewood, the acclaimed performer, has advised. Harewood, the first black actor to play Othello at the National Theatre, was recently awarded an MBE and has enjoyed a successful stage career. He played Nelson Mandela in a BBC film but after supporting roles in a number of television series, the actor, 46, has only now made his big breakthrough after securing a leading part in Homeland, a Golden Globes-winning American drama about the War on Terror. Harewood said it was a "fact" that young British actors have to follow the example of Idris Elba, Adrian Lester and himself by accepting that they will struggle to find roles that match their talents in Britain. "There really aren't enough strong, authoritative roles for black actors in this country," Harewood [said]. "A lot of my contemporaries have gone to the US. I would encourage young black British actors to get to America if they have ambition. They do seem to embrace a more diverse palate there. I think that's sad but that's the facts. I would encourage them to get there as quickly as you can."


Commentary: Red Tails could set Black films back

John S. Wilson, News One for Black America, 1/19/12

Red Tails, an all-black film, was produced, financed, and marketed by George Lucas, the billionaire creator of "Star Wars", who is white. Red Tails tells the story of a crew of African-American pilots during World War II. Lucas is to be commended for truly believing in this story -- he started working on it in 1988 -- to bring it to the big screen and to do so with his own money. While appearing on the John Stewart Show, he said he was shocked not only at the fact Hollywood wasn't willing to get behind the film but also by the reason he was given: they didn't "know" how to market a film with an all-black cast. I wish for [Red Tails] to be successful and spawn more faith in the creation, promotion, and patronage of Black film, but chances are it won't achieve any of that. The audience for Black films is almost exclusively Black. Andrew Weaver at Indiana University looked at how the racial makeup of films affected filmgoers. He found that the "intended audience" was far less likely to see [a] film when 70% of the cast was black." But Professor Weaver believes that this perception could be changed "if more mainstream movies cast minorities. If multiracial casts became the norm and movies were marketed to all demographics, the stigma could fade away," he says. This movie won't recoup what it cost if only Black audiences go see it. Hollywood will see George Lucas lose money on this film, shake their collective heads, and say, "We told him, but he wouldn't listen." Worse yet, Lucas's experience may be just the reason fewer black films are made in the future. Hollywood is always looking for a reason to cut their losses and go back to proven models of generating revenue (Saw 18, anyone?).


By the numbers: On Demián Bichir's Oscar nomination for A Better Life

Arturo R. García, Racialicious blog, 1/26/12

With apologies to fans of Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, et al., by far the most pleasant surprise of [the 2012] Academy Awards nominee announcements was seeing Demián Bichir get nominated for Best Actor -- alongside "conventional" choices like George Clooney and Brad Pitt -- for his role as an undocumented single father in A Better Life. As Colorlines noted,Bichir's nomination was one of several nods for Latinos in this year's Oscar race: cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, also from Mexico, was nominated for Best Cinematography for Terence Malick's The Tree of Life; Bérénice Bejo, a native of Argentina, earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her turn in the The Artist; Brazilian Sérgio Mendes was nominated for Best Song for "Real in Rio," his collaboration with Siedah Garrett, of "Man In The Mirror" fame, from the animated film Rio. But a look at some relevant figures further illustrates how painfully rare Bichir's accomplishment is.

2: The number of Mexican-born nominees for Best Actor, with Bichir joining Anthony Quinn, who was nominated on two separate occasions, for Wild Is The Wind and Zorba The Greek.

2: The number of white actors nominated for this category for playing Latino characters (Marlon Brando, Viva Zapata! and Spencer Tracy, The Old Man and the Sea).

47: The number of years between Quinn's nomination for Zorba and Bichir's nomination.

61: The number of years since a Latino actor born outside of Mexico and the United States was nominated for Best Actor; José Ferrer (born in Puerto Rico in 1912, before it became a U.S. territory) earned the honor in 1950 for Cyrano De Bergerac.

1: The number of: Latino actors (going into this year's ceremony) to win Best Actor, with Ferrer taking the Oscar home; Latino actors born in the U.S. to be nominated for the category (Edward James Olmos, 1988, Stand and Deliver); Latinas to win the Best Actress award (Rita Moreno, 1961, West Side Story); Mexican-born actresses ever nominated in that category (Salma Hayek, 2002, Frida)

25-to-1: Current odds of Bechir winning the Oscar, according to Vegas Insider.

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