Request for Help with Column about Race

A few weeks ago, I shared a wonderful email from a black actor who was curious whether there were particular issues specific to being a member of a minority group, in pursuing an acting career in Los Angeles. Here is a portion of her email, as a reminder.

I’m a New York-based actress, who after much contemplation has decided to make “the big move” to Los Angeles. I am currently nonunion with a few principal roles in student films to my credit. I know, I know — I’ve read the premature moves column. I want to do feature films and feel that there’s not enough work here (film and TV especially). I would also like a change of scenery as New York can be so trying after a while.

Anywhoo, I’ve noticed that there hasn’t been a column addressing the particular needs of actors of color. I read Frances Uku’s blog religiously and have gotten a great glimpse into this issue. My question to you is: Do you believe that actors of color (black actresses in particular) face any unique challenges out there? Is there anything beyond “preparation meeting opportunity” that we can do to be seen? I don’t know if it’s “Bitter Actor Syndrome” or what, but I’ve heard stories of being asked to play slaves time and again, of needing to look like Beyoncé to score a role, etc. I pretty much dismissed these things, because I firmly believe that you create you own reality. What are your thoughts?

Now, why am I reposting this email?

Well, in my initial reply, I asked readers with first-hand experience in this area to write in with their tales. And, in over a month, I’ve received exactly NO emails about this topic. NONE.

Okay, fine. As an actor friend once mentioned to me, “I read your column every week, but I never really read the Your Turn section.” Um… okay. Not sure why you’d be right here on the page and not read a few hundred more words, but whatevz. My point is, I understand that maybe not everyone reads this portion of the weekly column, so, fine.

I decided to reach out via email to 50 actor friends of mine who are members of various minority groups. I figured, rather than keeping this topic focused only on actors of ONE race, I’d broaden the quest for information. Perhaps, no matter what segment of the population an actor comes from, if he or she is a member of a minority group, there’s something that might apply across the board, with regard to this reader’s original email to me.

Fifty emails went out. I’ve received four replies. They’re GREAT replies. But they’re only four. What IS that?!?

Does it mean there are no race-specific challenges about a career in showbiz? Does it mean that actors assume the race-specific challenges they are experiencing are actually universal to actors of all races and therefore not worth mentioning? Is this one of those, “We don’t talk about this stuff,” kind of issues that I couldn’t possibly understand?

Well, here’s my one last attempt to get readers to share their advice on this topic. Next week’s column will be a response to the actor who wrote in… and I’d love to have a healthy pool of first-hand information from which to draw, in composing it. Let me hear from you! Thanks!

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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