That was a scene from Deep Cover, a 1992 action thriller directed by Bill Duke and written by Michael Tolkin. It’s abrupt. It’s disruptive. It’s... actually closer to reality than it is to fiction, as far as Hollywood hiring practices go. Actors don’t just submit an electronic application or join Monster.com to land a job. Their resume is a demo reel. Their interview is an audition. The job listings they scour for months to land a paying gig are called casting notices, and today I’ve looked at every casting call that’s currently open for feature films. I’m looking only at the top 2 lead actor / lead actress positions in each film; not bit parts, day players, or supporting cast. We’re looking at the acting equivalent to the full-time job with benefits to determine how many of these premium positions are available to ALL applicants, compared to how many are limited to people of specific ethnic backgrounds. For the rest of us, that isn’t even a consideration: every job offer applies indiscriminately to people of all races. The only differentiation made between applicants is related to each individual’s level of education, their skill set, and previous employment experience. For actors, unfortunately, that isn’t exactly the case.
I have a record of each film, their shooting locations, and the individual that posted the casting notices. However, I will not be revealing this information at any point in the article, because the purpose of this piece is not to cry “gotcha!” at specific individuals or to target production companies that are racially biased in their casting. In a creative environment, we must understand that there are many variables which can determine the physical appearance of a character, and since I do not possess all of the information about the characters and script that the producers have, I will not pass judgment. My intention, instead, is to shine a light on the overall process of casting in Hollywood. To show the reality that is faced by minority actors, and to reveal that there is an institutional inequality at play. One which overrides all talent, experience, common sense, and indeed even human dignity itself. There is a powerful bias virus that has infected the film industry.