Denzel Washington, who has been busy promoting the film Fences, never descends your presence without leaving a bit of information that will have your mind spinning and thinking on a larger scale.
And when it comes to Hollywood, as a veteran in the industry holding nearly every major position from leading man to director, he knows the game and the shuffle oh-so-well.
In discussions relating to the lack of representation in Hollywood and the problem of colorism and opportunity, we’ve seen the issues rise and become more prevalent in studio conversation and across various social mediums. Where one argues that part of the Black struggle when it comes to landing gigs in Hollywood is colorism, Washington offered another perspective during an interview with BET that acknowledges the issue, but also challenges that mentality.
“You can say, ‘Oh, I didn’t get the part because they gave it to the light-skinned girl,’ or you can work, and one day –it might take 20 years — and you can be Viola,” Washington stated referencing his Fences co-star Viola Davis. “The easiest thing to do is to blame someone else, the system. Yeah, well, there’s a possibility, maybe, that you’re not good enough, but it’s easy to say it’s someone’s else’s fault. But there’s a possibility that you’re not ready, and you can still blame it on someone else instead of getting ready.”
Further adding to his argument, he stated, “One of the best roles for a woman of any color in the last, in a good, good while, or at least any movie that I’ve been in, a dark-skinned woman has in this film. So as long as you’re being led by outside forces or just being reactionary, then you won’t move forward. You have to continue to get better.”
There is validity in his statement regarding using the blame-game as a crutch for incompetence. Before stepping into an opportunity, we have to self-check and be sure that we’ve done the work on our end that is required and then some.
To the point of colorism, it is also without doubt that we’re beginning to see more inclusion on network television and prime-time. However, in order to tell broader stories of humanity from various cultural perspectives, there is still work to be done.
Davis has also addressed her run-ins with colorism on her rise to the Hollywood “elite,” so to speak. And as Washington stated, it’s not that it doesn’t happen, but you’re damn right it may take years.
These are the reasons we rejoiced when Kerry Washington landed the lead role in Scandal, a series written by a Black woman, for the ABC network. These are reasons we rooted for Viola Davis when she earned the role of “Annalise Keating” in How To Get Away With Murder for the same network.
“In the history of television and even in film, I’ve never seen a character like Annalise Keating played by someone who looks like me,” Davis noted in a 2015 interview with The Wrap. “My age, my hue, my sex. She is a woman who absolutely culminates the full spectrum of humanity: our askew sexuality, our askew maternal instincts. She’s all of that, and she’s a dark-skin Black woman.”
Davis’ and Kerry Washington’s—among many others—long list of credits and profound talent add to the fact that Black culture does not lack talent and dedication, but Hollywood needs to do a better job of acknowledging our people who have put in the work and can deliver.
Is Washington looking past the colorism issue? No. As a man of wisdom and who has been a poignant and diverse figure in this industry for decades, he’s providing a challenge to look beyond race on some issues and really take inventory on what you bring to the table.
Are you truly prepared and ready for what you’re asking for?