Directors, stop casting the same actors

by Trinity Bland, Contributor

When we hear the name Will Smith, I am confident a number of things come to mind. I personally think of the rapper he was during my parent’s teenage days, going by the stage name The Fresh Prince.

However, Smith has come a long way since his rapping days and is more so known as an award-winning actor who has had an iconic career to date.

Now, I will be the absolute first to say I am a Will Smith enthusiast and can quote a number of his works in my sleep.

In fact, the ones that especially stick out to me (besides my personal favorite, the retro sitcom, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”) are films that were based on true stories and real people.

I think it is quite special that Will Smith has been a part of projects such as these, but I don’t think he was a good fit for a couple of them.

Films in which Smith has portrayed an actual person rather than a fictional character include the 1996 film, Ali, where he played boxer and activist Muhammad Ali, the 2005 film, The Pursuit of Happyness, he played Chris Gardner, a single father who struggled financially who became a wealthy businessman, and the 2013 film, Concussion, where he played Dr. Bennet Omalu, a doctor from Nigeria, who was the first person to discover chronic traumatic encephalopathy in football players.

I realize there is a lot of pressure in portraying a person in a film, especially a person who is alive and real, and Smith isn’t a faulty actor in the slightest, but I am willing to bet there were several other great candidates who could have played the role of Dr. Omalu in Concussion. Many people may disagree with me when I say this, but I have my reasons.

Dr. Omalu is a Nigerian doctor.

If the filmmakers were aiming to include as much accuracy and authenticity in Concussion as possible, wouldn’t it have made sense to seek out Nigerian actors for the role?

Maybe even someone who looked a little more like the doctor himself?

Those things may have contributed to an even better acting performance than what Smith gave us on the big screen.

I’m not really sure why the producers chose Smith, an actor from West Philadelphia, over an actor from Nigeria, to play the role of Dr. Omalu.  

I have the same issue with King Richard, a new biopic that is scheduled to come out soon about Richard Williams, who is the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.

Smith will be portraying Richard Williams in the film, and I think the producers should’ve thought twice about this casting choice as well.

Now, I would never say Smith isn’t a qualified enough actor because he has a name and an iconic presence in Hollywood, but I just feel that someone who resembles Williams more would fit the role better.

I don’t know if the Williams family has spoken out about this or if they specifically trust Smith with this role, but from an outsider looking in, Smith just isn’t a good fit in terms of representation.

It makes me wonder how actors with darker skin complexions like Idris Elba, Denzel Washington, Blair Underwood or Omar Epps are feeling about the fact that this opportunity was given to an actor with a lighter skin complexion.

It now taps into the political issue of colorism in entertainment, where light-skinned actors are favored and sought out for the larger opportunities over darker-skinned actors.

Even if colorism has nothing to do with this, there is a possibility the directors of the film are solely thinking of the profit they will make when the film debuts because Smith is an icon that people of all ages love as well as someone who will bring in millions of dollars, but so are some of the other actors I mentioned earlier.

Nevertheless, I personally don’t understand the casting choice for Richard Williams in King Richard, but at the end of the day, I’m happy for Will Smith.

He deserves roles as major as this, yet let’s remember there are other phenomenal black actors do too.

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