*In October 2014 on the set of “GOTHAM,” a Warner Brothers Television Program, a stunt coordinator selected a white stunt actor to double for an African American actor using make-up to darken her skin so that she would appear African American, a practice in earlier eras known as BLACKFACE.
When foul was cried by qualified African American stunt actors, the studio changed directions and hired an African American stunt actor in addition to the White stunt actor to cover up their “mistake.” Warner Brothers’ defense is that they never filmed the Black-faced White stunt actor.
The Black Stuntmen’s Association (BSA) called for a meeting with Warner Brothers to discuss possible remedies to make sure that this type of thing was stopped. It was a lot of déjà vu for the BSA. Thirty years ago two Black stunt actors had worked with the government to enforce a consent decree against Warner Brothers for the very same behavior which resulted in a financial settlement and a commitment from Warner Brothers not to paint down White stunt actors when qualified Black stunt actors were available.
The BSA invited Warner Brothers to join with them in developing a program to address this repeating issue including joint press releases and active training on diversity at the beginning of each production. Warner Brothers mulled over the proposition for a couple of months then said “no thanks but we will go to AFTRA-SAG to educate the union on enforcing the contract.” What? Their answer to their actions is to blame SAG?
When the BSA talks broke off Warner Brothers’ position was that they had done enough. They conduct annual diversity training. That’s it. Training, that obviously isn’t working, was all that they would do about the situation and all they cared about. Not that they are still discriminating in the same way that they did 30 years ago. Not that they are too bottom-line oriented to agree to pre-production diversity training. They weren’t willing to change a thing.
It all began in 1970 when a White stunt actor was painted down (Black-faced) to double for Louis Gossett Jr., an African American actor on the Warner Brothers Production “Skin Game.” It had been an acceptable practice to paint down White stunt actors for years even though there were qualified African American stunt actors. Members of the BSA filed 32 Equal Employment Opportunity Charges in order to stop the practice. Five of the studios, including Warner Brothers, entered into consent decrees agreeing to stop the practice. After violating the consent decrees, Warner Brothers, among other, agreed not to use paint downs again.
Now 45 years later Blackface is back at Warner Brothers and they don’t think it is something to be concerned about.
Black Stuntmen’s Association