Since Get Out‘s official release only a few weeks ago, the press surrounding it has been almost universally positive. With the rare dissenting opinion, the movie has a stellar Rotten Tomatoes score, has been receiving stellar critical reviews as well as audience feedback, and has already hit the $100 million mark on a budget of less than $5 million. It’s that last part that is possibly most amazing, but every hit has some high profile detractors somewhere — and Get Out‘s was none other than Samuel L. Jackson.
In a recent interview, Jackson contemplated what the movie would have been like should the lead have been played by a African American actor instead of a British leading man. Jackson said that Kaluuya might not have been able to “sympathize” with the movie’s content and story as much as if he had grown up in the US, and followed that sentiment up with some reasoning.
“Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for a hundred years. What would a brother from America have made of that role? Some things are universal, but [not everything].”
Star Wars actor John Boyega (also British) already chimed in on Twitter…
And now Kaluuya is responding directly to the comments via a new interview in GQ. In the interview, which is worth a read in full, Kaluuya addresses a lot about his career and his upbringing including his thoughts about being an actor of color. Before he directly rebutted Jackson’s thoughts, he did make sure to applaud the veteran actor for all the doors he opened in the industry, but he didn’t let his reverence for Samuel L. get in the way of his honest opinions.
Here’s the thing about that critique, though. I’m dark-skinned, bro. 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!
It’s not the first time that actors of color (from any country) have brought up this experience whether it is just growing up or within the industry specifically, so it’s not a surprise that this sentiment should be brought up in this context. He continued,
[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.
Let me say, I’m not trying to culture-vulture the thing. I empathize. That script spoke to me. I’ve been to Ugandan weddings, and funerals, and seen that cousin bring a white girl. That’s a thing in all communities. 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…I resent that I have to prove that I’m black. I don’t know what that is. I’m still processing it.
It’s a considered opinion on the entire “conflict” and a well put one at that. While not every back-and-forth between two prominent actors turns in to a sparring match, it’s still nice to see a difference of opinions in the industry be addressed with respect and perspective on some level. This is a conversation that is not going to go away overnight especially when multiple British actors of color have become more prominent stateside in recent years, and British imports of all backgrounds have been a long-standing Hollywood tradition that doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon. This is an educational conversation to have between two respected actors though, and one that it is important to have in public rather than behind closed doors. Props to Kaluuya for responding with care, passion, and intelligent words.