Diary of a Mad Black Actor: The Real Range in Roles Being Given to African Americans

Hello everyone! My name is Kezia Dacosta, I am a rising sophomore studying Film and Screen Studies at Pace University. In addition to studying Film in school, I am an actress. As a young black actress there is a clear lack of opportunity in this industry for people of color. A chance to be seen in a significant role, or one of remembrance seems like a distant dream to many black actors. Just last year, the #OscarsSoWhite scandal was a huge story in the media, when people realized not a single best or supporting actor nominee for the year previous or that year was black. This is a time of serious pushes for equality in the media and opportunity to be given to African Americans. Dr. Lauren Cramer and I are currently working on a research study relating to this topic with the tentative title; Diary of a Mad Black Actor: The Real Range in Roles Being Given to African Americans.

Our study will focus primarily on Contemporary Black Media. Currently movies like Get Out(2017) and Black Panther(2018) have been receiving plenty of coverage with race being the clear topic of discussion. African Americans are playing superheroes and affluent characters in the 21st century so this study will focus on todays current range of roles compared to a much smaller range many years ago.  The purpose of this study is to analyze the roles African-American actors are portraying today in film and television.  I am an African American actor and from my personal observations, my current hypothesis is African American actors are not offered the full range of roles they could be. They are instead forced into playing the same kind of role repeatedly. After the study is over, I will be making a documentary on my topic using all the data I gather.

My first step in this study will be to define contemporary black media. After creating a definition, I proceed to making a list of contemporary black media which will include movies and television shows. Afterwards, I interview black actors who can give their testimony on the range of roles they have auditioned for or booked. I will then use their experiences to analyze and “code” the roles in contemporary black media. I will then expand my analysis by researching the other roles played by the black actors in my original data set over the last five years, including roles that are not considered contemporary black media. This methodology is a combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis.

With this list I will transfer the movies and television shows over to my primary method of approach which will be “visualizing my data” in a flow chart to observe the patterns I find. These charts consist of a series of bubbles all connecting with different African American actors, the movies they have performed in and the various roles they have portrayed. By color-coding the flow chart, I will have a clear visual representation of the range of roles being portrayed, and how wide the actual range is. After collecting all this data, I will then be able to see the high profile actors range of roles being portrayed as well as up and coming actors range of roles.

I hope you found this introductory piece informative and I look forward to the next posting where I can share some of my findings! That’s all folks!

Author: Kezia Dacosta

Film and Screen Studies// Dyson College of the Arts and Sciences

3 thoughts on “Diary of a Mad Black Actor: The Real Range in Roles Being Given to African Americans”

  1. Kezia this is great and very thought provoking!! Ms. Kennedy and I can’t wait to read your next postings!!!!

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