*Kelsee King-Devoreaux may have uncovered something many people have never heard about with what she went through on the set of “Gotham,” but according to an upcoming documentary, the practice of white stunt people donning blackface to double for black entertainers has been going on for years.
The film, titled “Painted Down,” offers a detailed history surrounding what many consider to be a still active practice of donning “blackface.” The “Gotham situation, resulted in Warner Bros. Television apologizing for wanting to use a white stuntwoman in dark-skinned makeup in its for the popular Fox show and vowing to hire an African-American stuntwoman instead, is the latest example of Hollywood not moving beyond blackface.
“That’s exactly what they wanted to do,” “Painted Down executive producer Nonie Robinson, told theroot.com. “They” being the stunt coordinators and producers who do the hiring. “I hate the term ‘blackface,’ and being painted down is exactly what it is: It’s blackface.”
Among the stunt people highlighted in “Painted Down” is the late stuntman Edward Smith and Calvin Brown, whose work on the classic groundbreaking TV series “I Spy” paved the way for Smith as well as Willie Harris, Alex Brown, Henry Kingi and others to form the Black Stuntmen’s Association in 1967.
In a promotional clip for Painted Down,” Bill Cosby described the moment that broke the color barrier for black stunt people as he recalled a situation involving a pickup-truck rollover stunt for the first episode of “I Spy.”
“The day of the shooting, I showed up for that scene to see it. I had no knowledge that there are no black stuntmen. I went over, and there was this white stuntman in Scotty’s clothing. I looked at him, and the lady is putting black, not a deep brown … [on] this guy. … Then they pulled out this wig [that] looks like they scalped a sheep and dyed it,” said Cosby, who remembered what he did after the show’s executive producer Sheldon Leonard told him he paid the stuntman $750 for his work.
“I said, ‘Sheldon, you can save your money on makeup because I know some guys who I grew up with in the projects … who will do that just for a free dinner and a ticket to Hollywood for a day and [to] go to Disneyland.’ And he laughed. The next thing I know, Calvin Brown is there.”
In addition to stuntmen, the BSA also included stuntwomen such as Evelyn Cuffee, who is considered the first African-American stuntwoman by the BSA; Jadie David, who was stunt-doubled for Denise Nicholas in horseback, swimming and diving scenes on ABC’s “Room 222” in the early 1970s; and Kym Washington, daughter of stuntman Richard A. Washington, who doubled for Richard Roundtree on a motorcycle in “Earthquake” and Louis Gossett Jr. underwater in “The Deep.”
“Painted Down,” directed by Marques Miles, is expected to released in 2015. There’s MORE on the film at TheRoot.