Bellas and fellas, so much has been said about the sad state of black talent in Hollywood, but I started to feel faint prickles of hope again, now that Obama’s president and this year two African American actresses are vying for Oscars. But every time I feel like Hollywood has taken two steps forward in terms of diversity, I then discover that it’s more like two steps back.

Case in point, this article from The Root which just might give you a headache if you’re sensitive to these issues, like I am. Oh, and thanks to my amiga Nichelle of 55 Secret Street, Anovelista, and Revenge of the Curves for sharing this story with me, headache inducing as it was.

Nick Charles tells the background story of New In Town, a ghastly-looking and terribly reviewed
rom-com starring frequent star of ghastly-looking, terribly-reviewed rom-coms, Renee Zellweger. Jezebel shone a light on the reviews, which, if you love to read nasty movie reviews, are like comedy gold.

But The Root reveals, this was meant to be a different sort of chick flick.

“…With this romantic comedy, which opens today and stars Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr., the lead was supposed to be a black actress and the writer had someone in mind from the very beginning. “I initially wanted Angela Bassett,” says Kenneth Rance, the screenwriter. “I’m a big fan of her work. And Gabrielle Union was initially cast.”

Wait a minute. Are you KIDDING me?


New In Town was intended to be an entirely different movie, with a much less obvious plot. A plot rarely seen in Hollywood. And yes, because of fear? Myopia? Prejudice? a role that could have been played by a supremely talented actress of color, went to an actress who, as the San Francisco Chronicle says, “takes an otherwise passable mainstream comedy and all but ruins it with her lack of effort. The script may not have been “Cinderella Man” or “Cold Mountain,” but audience members are still going to pay the same $10.50 ticket price to see her perform. The least she could do is not deliver her lines as if she were reading them from cue cards.”

Ugh.

Meanwhile, Angela Bassett continues to work. She recently raked in some box office bucks in Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, and as BIG’s mom in Notorious. She plays a recurring role on ER, and in this recent LA Times piece, it appears that she’s loving life. She has no reason to be mad about this. But I’m kinda mad on her behalf. I’m mad as a black woman who likes to go to the movies, and would love to see more black actresses get their moments to shine as more than just the sassy friend. I’m mad that Hollywood always does the predictable thing, shafting talented actors and actresses and expecting moviegoers to pony up cash for more of the same.

What say you?

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