*Leave Kristan alone.
You all are throwing rotten tomatoes at the wrong person.
If you’re just tuning in, let me fill you in…
Last week, Kristan Berona, casting director for Sande Alessi Casting Company, put out a specific and detailed casting call for actors to fill roles as extras for NWA’s biopic, “Straight Outta Compton.”
With little thought and no sensitivity, Berona–I’m assuming an Italian-American woman–created a social media firestorm when her final breakdown hit the company’s Facebook page. (Click here to view.) It stings, it stinks and yes, it is coated with colorism and racism. However, the truth of the matter is not only should we NOT blame Berona, I can’t even hold Hollywood’s butt to the flame this time. Blame the TRUTH.
Many people are outraged over the class system that was assigned to each category. Class “A” called for the creme de la creme of women, emphasizing beauty, the physique of a model and natural hair as the qualifying factors. Outside of that, EVERY RACE WAS WELCOMED. As the class letter ascended, the quality of prerequisites descended, working its way down to Class “D” which consisted of what many are deeming the bottom feeders of the group. According to Berona, Alessi Casting uses the letter system in most of their casting calls for large groups of extras. I believe them. In many cases, a casting director is given a small window of time to corral these actors together in time for filming, and it makes sense to me why they would use this type of setup across the board. I understand why people are hopping mad about the order, but if Class “A” was assigned to poor, out of shape women, would it really have made you less angry? I vote no.
Secondly, casting directors simply write what the director (or assistant director) tells them. What are the chances of a white woman knowing how to use the word “fine” in slang-like fashion when it comes to describing a female? I believe whoever lies second in command to director F. Gary Gray sent the orders over to Berona, and she posted them almost verbatim. It’s her job to be as specific as she was directed when carrying out her duties. Although some of her choices in verbiage seem borderline crass, most breakdowns (the descriptions of a casting call) are, and unless she took a course on history in da ‘hood, how would she know what to cast for? Although Berona has issued the factory-fabricated mea culpa for the post, I believe she is taking the fall for the entire debacle in order to stay in the good graces of Hollywood.
Lastly, people forget this highly anticipated project is a period piece that is based off of the infamous rap group’s journey from the rough streets of Compton to stardom. It’s their truth, and for the most part, the types being requested represent stereotypes that were emulated in the early ’90s. “Light was right” and “long hair didn’t care” were the squads considered to be in the upper echelon of women throughout most of the African-American community, while the opposite hung on the bottom rung of the ladder. Albeit it’s a tough pill to swallow, WE have to take ownership for colorism and stereotypes, not Hollywood. They may have crammed these images down our throats, but we are the ones who have happily digested them for many years, and continue to do so today. How do I know? Watch how many of us show up for that casting call.
Tanya Tatum is the outspoken host of “The Tatum Talks,” a live Blog Talk Radio show focusing on African-American interests. Check out her next episode, “Playing the Race Card” airing Wednesday, July 23rd at 9p EST. You can also join her for a daily discussion on Facebook and follow her @TheTatumTalks on Twitter.