ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

Now, while 's directorial debut, may currently be tearing up the box office (having already made $110 million in the domestic market alone, off the back of a $4.5 million budget) and wowing critics across the country, it has of late been drawing a whole lot of attention for somewhat less glowingly positive reasons.

It all started when acclaimed curmudgeon made a controversial statement regarding the movie, suggesting that the movie may have benefited from featuring a different lead actor, since star is from the UK.

'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' [Credit: Marvel Studios]
'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' [Credit: Marvel Studios]

As Jackson put it, during an interview with New York's Hot 97 radio:

"There are a lot of black British actors that work in this country. All the time... I tend to wonder what would that movie have been with an American brother who really understands that in a way. Because Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for a hundred years. Britain, there’s only about eight real white people left in Britain. … So what would a brother from America made of that role? I’m sure the director helped. Some things are universal, but everything ain’t."

Which almost immediately led to something of a minor media firestorm, with British and American actors trading op ed blows over the presence of black British actors in American movies, and whether or not they're able to adequately play black American roles. And, so, somewhat unsurprisingly:

'Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya Is Pretty Sick Of Being Told He's 'Not Black Enough'

'Get Out' [Credit: Universal]
'Get Out' [Credit: Universal]

After all, Kaluuya just starred in a movie that made a ridiculous amount of money at the box office, in which his performance was particularly widely heralded, and yet he's spent much of this week being asked how he feels about an extremely complex and politically fraught subject, while being essentially made the scapegoat for a trend in Hollywood that he is in no way responsible for.

And yet, Kaluuya's response to Jackson's comments is, while obviously reflective of a certain amount of irritation, about as fundamentally thoughtful as its possible to imagine it being. Heck, he even made sure to note that Samuel L. Jackson has "done a lot so that we can do what we can do," just to make clear that he wasn't actually all that mad at the iconic actor. The general backlash against him because of his nationality, though? That Kaluuya was less than thrilled with, especially since, as he pointed out in a recent interview with GQ:

"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!"

'Get Out' [Credit: Universal]
'Get Out' [Credit: Universal]

What's more, he added, the idea that he wouldn't be able to represent the experience of being black in America because of his nationality suggests a lack of awareness of British history:

"[Black people in the UK], the people who are the reason I'm even about to have a career, had to live in a time where they went looking for housing and signs would say, 'NO IRISH. NO DOGS. NO BLACKS.' That's reality. Police would round up all these black people, get them in the back of a van, and wrap them in blankets so their bruises wouldn't show when they beat them. That's the history that London has gone through. The Brixton riots, the Tottenham riots, the 2011 riots, because black people were being killed by police. That's what's happening in London. But it's not in the mainstream media. Those stories aren't out there like that. So people get an idea of what they might think the experience is."

That, in turn, makes the implication of Jackson's comments — that Kaluuya can't adequately play a young black American man because of where he's from, despite the many elements of racial prejudice that are universal, and certainly Trans-Atlantic — understandably all the more frustrating:

"I really respect African-American people. I just want to tell black stories... This is the frustrating thing, bro — in order to prove that I can play this role, I have to open up about the trauma that I’ve experienced as a black person. I have to show off my struggle so that people accept that I’m black. No matter that every single room I go to, I’m usually the darkest person there. You know what I’m saying? I kind of resent that mentality. I’m just an individual... I resent that I have to prove that I'm black. I don't know what that is. I'm still processing it."

'Get Out' [Credit: Universal]
'Get Out' [Credit: Universal]

That particular frustration is also made more resonant for Kaluuya, since he isn't convinced by the idea that black British people should be treated as "others" just because they're from another country. As he put it:

"Even people who say that black people are minorities, there are a billion black people in the world. A billion white people. What part of that is a minority? If you separate yourself, then maybe. But I see black people as one man. When I see people beaten on the streets of America, that hurts me. I feel that... I'd rather it be about the film than about me, or my accent, where I'm from, because that's not what it's about. There's a message in this thing. There's a black writer and director that has written a film that is critically acclaimed, and now is commercially profitable. Yet we're trying to separate ourselves again? There's enough to deal with."

Whether Kaluuya's words will be enough to persuade Jackson — or the many other actors who came out in support of his statement — however, very much remains to be seen.

What do you think, though? Do you think Daniel Kaluuya is right, or are you more inclined to agree with Samuel L. Jackson? Let us know below!

(Sources: GQ, Hot 97)


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