Daniel Kaluuya, the star of Get Out, has responded to Samuel L Jackson’s criticisms about the casting of a black British actor in a film about race relations in America.
London-born Kaluuya found himself at the centre of a debate thanks to his lead role in the satirical horror film Get Out, which challenges the conception that racism in the US was solved because Barack Obama was president.
Veteran African American actor Samuel L Jackson criticised Hollywood for the casting, saying that “Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for 100 years.”
Skins actor Kaluuya has responded, saying he was proud to be in the first lead role of his career and that he’s previously lost out on parts because he is black. “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” he told the BBC.
“I love all my black brothers and sisters worldwide, and that’s my position.
“All I know is this my first ever lead role in a film and I’ve lost out on a lot of roles because I’m black.”
He added: “It’s my one shot. I’m going to come through it and do my thing and go home.”
Kaluuya also told GQ that whatever he does, someone is likely to label him as “other”. “When I’m around black people, I’m made to feel ‘other’ because I’m dark-skinned. I’ve had to wrestle with that, with people going, ‘You’re too black.’
“Then I come to America, and they say, ‘You’re not black enough.’ I go to Uganda, I can’t speak the language. In India, I’m black. In the black community, I’m dark-skinned. In America, I’m British. Bro!”
In Jackson’s original radio interview a week ago with US station Hot 97, he said he wondered what Get Out would have been like with an American actor in the lead role. Clarifying his remarks later in the week, he said he was not criticising British stars, but the Hollywood system.
Other actors have joined the debate, with Star Wars’ John Boyega tweeting that it was a “conflict we don’t have time for”.
Black brits vs African American. A stupid ass conflict we don't have time for.— John Boyega (@JohnBoyega) March 8, 2017
Meanwhile in an article for the Guardian, Homeland actor David Harewood argued that Britons may be better suited to some parts because they are not burdened by “what’s in the history books”.
In Get Out, Kaluuya plays Chris, a photographer who goes with his white girlfriend Rose (Girls star Allison Williams) to visit her parents. He is worried because Rose has not told her family she has a black boyfriend. Despite initially receiving a warm welcome, as the weekend progresses events become more and more disturbing.
“Jordan [Peele, the film’s director] wrote this as a response to the idea that racism was ‘solved’ because Obama was president,” Kaluuya told the BBC.
Peele has admitted he had not wanted to cast a British actor, but that Kaluuya had won him over during an initial audition.
“We spoke on Skype,” Kaluuya confirmed. “He was very wary because it’s an African-American specific experience, but then we had a chat about what it’s like being black worldwide and being black in London.”
On whether Kaluuya felt he could identify with Get Out’s themes, he said that there were an “uncountable amount” of instances where he’d been “paranoid”.
“I did a shoot in Lithuania when I was 17. Everywhere I went people were pointing and staring. Or when I go to Lidl and I get followed by security guards. Is that because it’s me, I’m black or what I’m wearing?
“It’s every day, navigating your life, getting stopped by police, I’ve had it all.”
Kaluuya is currently filming Ryan Coogler’s superhero film Black Panther in the US. He is also set to star in Steve McQueen’s Widows, the director’s first film since winning the best picture Oscar for 12 Years a Slave in 2014.
Get Out is out in UK cinemas on 17 March