Locust wrote: ↑
Sat Jun 27, 2020 9:16 pm
FireFly wrote: ↑
Sat Jun 27, 2020 9:11 pm
Agreed. But to pretend that Asian and black actors don't even get auditions at all is a bit dishonest imo.
I don't have stats for voice acting in particular, but it's pretty well known that people with "ethnic", "Black", etc sounding names - that can affect whether or not they even get a job interview, due to racial biases
"White" sounding names were vastly prefered by interviewers
The book Freakonomics went into this some, and if you google around, you'll find quite a lot of articles about this
Sadly, it's quite true that Asian, black, and even Latino actors don't even get certain auditions. I think we're going to see that start to change, but that has been the case thus far. You won't find "stats" on that because people don't keep stats of people they don't use. That said, you'll find plenty of first and second-hand accounts from both actors and casting directors that this is the case. I won't name this casting director because I don't believe in dragging people into a debate that they weren't originally involved with, but here's a Facebook post from a friend of mine who is both a voice actor and a casting director...
A VO casting director's Facebook post wrote:
I just wrote a long post on a friend's page in regards to Mike Henry stepping down from voicing the role of Cleveland on Family Guy/The Cleveland show after 20 years. If you don't watch those shows (I don't, don't @ me), you might not know he's a white dude voicing a Black character. There have been a few other instances of actors stepping down from roles that might be better suited to authentic casting, including Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell who both play mixed race characters on more recent popular shows that were created by their friends. The internet is angry about this. If *you* are angry about this, please consider the below.
I would ask yourself why this bothers you. If you enjoy Mike Henry's work in this role and you'll be sad to see him go after 20 years, that's totally fair. You'll miss him. But 20 years is a long run, and it's perfectly fine to pass the torch for any reason, and it's perfectly fine to be sad about that ending.
If you're irritated because they'll replace him with a Black actor, that's something to do some thinking on.
As someone who works in the world of voiceover on both the acting and casting/production sides of the glass, I can tell you that there's a large issue of uneven opportunities in this industry. White is often considered the default for a character, and many of my friends who are BIPOC don't always get the opportunities sent their way. Let's take the ethnicity of the character away for the moment and make it a fuzzy animal for a kid's show. If we're casting a cute cartoon kitten, there's no reason that only white actors should read on that gray stripey kitten. But sometimes, that exactly happens. I've seen it multiple times when I'm wearing my casting hat.
Often, if a character's race isn't specified, I will only get white actors from an agency that I know reps incredible people of many backgrounds. I've contacted multiple agents in the past year asking for a perfect-for-this-role actor who happens to be Black or Asian to please submit an audition. It's eye-opening that some of my most talented friends who have agents at the best agencies are often overlooked by the very person who should be fighting for them. All because the agent's implicit bias was that we only wanted white voices because we didn't specifically say "please send me your Black actors for this exact role" even though the audition request asked for diverse options. And you know what? More than once, that actor I've hunted down and requested a read from has booked the job.
In a perfect future world where opportunities are equal and all talented people get to read on all roles that suit them, this might become less of an issue. But when most roles are white by default or specified as Caucasian, I personally have more opportunities than friends of mine who are Black who are similar to me vocally, because they're only getting sent the Black roles. Which, I promise you are not numerous in quality. I know this because I see it when casting, I see it in the sides, and I hear the stories from peers that I speak with regularly about this very topic.
So should white actors not submit on characters of color? It's a personal choice, but, I pass on those roles. I don't feel like those are my stories to tell, especially if the character's culture is part of the story. But more than that, I have plenty of other opportunities in my inbox without taking up the *one* Black role a friend of mine might receive that week. I don't have a very high powered agent, so if my small number of auditions at a tiny agency are more numerous than what my equally talented, equally experienced friend at a larger agency receives just because they're Black, well, that feels pretty crummy to me. So I pass on those in hopes the production casts authentically.
20 years ago, no one in the casting room for Family Guy/Cleveland Show was thinking "hey, maybe we should give a Black actor an opportunities to voice this Black character." But by stepping down, Mike Henry is saying, "hey, we should make more room at the table for other actors." And that's what an ally does. It's never too late to show up for equality, so rather than admonish anyone in production there for not doing that 20 years ago, I'm hopeful that this means we'll seeing more inclusivity in casting in general.
I'm not expecting to change your feelings on this issue, but I wanted to give you some perspective about what this could mean to a Black actor who hasn't seen any auditions for 3 weeks while their white friend has gotten to read on 6 video games and 4 cartoons. Representation matters, and this is just one more step towards seeing it.
Thanks for reading.
[EDIT: I want to make an addendum that I didn't know that Mike Henry created the character before I wrote this. Some related things in the comments.]
I would also note, since we're talking about Mike Henry and Cleveland, Phil LaMar recently said on Crispin Freeman's podcast that he wasn't even asked to audition for Cleveland despite being on the show.