Forest Whitaker: For Blacks in Hollywood, “We’re Not at a Destination Point”

February 22nd, 2011, by

Photo by: Van Evers, TS Media, Inc.
Photo by: Van Evers, TS Media, Inc.

In this Web-exclusive clip, Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker addresses a recent piece in The New York Times entitled “Hollywood’s Whiteout,” about the absence of Black artists in the 2011 Oscar nominee class.

The article states:

The consolidation of a black presence in the movies and television did not signal the arrival of a postracial Hollywood any more than the election of Barack Obama in 2008 spelled the end of America’s 400-year-old racial drama. But it was possible, over much of the past decade, to believe that a few of the old demons of suspicion and exclusion might finally be laid to rest.

Are the coming Oscars an anomaly, or an unsettling sign of the times? The Academy, in any case, does not work in a vacuum. A look back at the American films of 2010 reveals fewer of the kinds of movies — biographies like “Ray” and urban dramas like “Training Day” — that have propelled black actors, screenwriters and directors into contention in the recent past. With a few exceptions, like the romance “Just Wright” and the ghetto farce “Lottery Ticket,” it was perhaps the whitest year for Hollywood since the post-Richard Pryor, pre-Spike Lee 1980s. The superhero, fantasy and action genres were drained of color. The urban dramas were set in Irish-American New England neighborhoods. Even the male-male buddy picture, a staple of interracial bonding since 1958, when Mr. Poitier and Tony Curtis were chained together in “The Defiant Ones,” has become a largely white-on-white affair.

“There has been a paradigm shift,” says Whitaker, who won an Academy Award in 2007 for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. “We’ve moved a long way, but we’re not at a destination point.”

Watch the Web-exclusive clip below, where Whitaker explains why he embraces technology to help with the democratization of Hollywood, and watch the video of his full conversation to find out what more he had to say.

  • Phineas Katsande

    I think we are beating about the bush again about why there are no blacks in this year’s Oscars. It is high time that the black people should concentrate on shows about their culture, to weigh more on the African element of African American culture. I am talking of the idea of doing more of the Forest Whitaker “Idi Amin” type of movie, where we saw African culture portrayed by Forest Whitaker in his rantings and ravings, in his joy, in his love, and in his everyday life than is portrayed in the American movies which portray the whiteness of the Oscars. There are lots of black African and African American actors, writers, directors, musicians who could sit down and work on their own thing, about the real Africa and America in the black home, about the African and African American lifestyles, not tainted by pretence. Maybe it is high time that the excellent African American talent that we have seen portaying real roles for so long should get out of acting for the Oscars and do their own thing – Denzel, Whoopi, Forest, Enough is enough!

  • M. BerNadette Brroks

    I so admire both of you. I appreciate this interview and I want continued success for most of my sisters and brothers in the entertainment industry!
    I think others don’t respect us or value OURS because we don’t! Until OUR actors/actresses stop using their resources on OTHERS we will never get the recognition we deserve! Which of OUR entertainers has pooled their resources to buy a network or help fund programs that will help people that look like them move into the industry in ways that are relevant so we won’t have to wait for others to appreciate us? Why is it when OUR actresses are asked on the Red Carpet who they’re wearing
    it’s always OTHERS? Invest properly in the proper things (and people),and the need for OTHERS opinions and AWARDS won’t be as important! AND the rewards will be GREATER! There are people like me( the ticket buying,DVD/CD purchaser) that will not support OURS that don’t appear to respect or support us!

  • Linda P.

    Love your show Tavis. Mr. Whitaker gave a good answer on the Black Hollywood scenario. But let’s be honest – do you really expect Hollywood to have a Black person up every single year? Was there a movie that was up this year made by Blacks that garnered an Academy Award? Blacks in the Hollywood business need to make more serious films and stop being comedic. We have the power to make this happen – if we keep making comedies all the time, how can you be taken seriously?

  • P. Burn

    To the previous poster’s question, “For Colored Girls…” was definitely such a movie deserving of nominations (and some awards in my opinion).

Last modified: April 26, 2011 at 11:16 am