Twenty of the films in the Kino Lorber Pioneers of African-American Cinema collection are now available on Netflix. They include Paul Robeson’s debut in “Body and Soul,” a black and white silent film where he plays the dual roles of a preacher and his evil brother and “The Bronze Buckaroo,” with Herb Jeffries as a singing cowboy, as well as “Hot Biskits” (a man cheats at golf using magnets), “Birthright” (a Harvard-educated man goes home to start a school), and “Verdict not Guilty” (“Truth” serves as judge over a woman’s life).
Ed Skrein (the bad guy in “Deadpool”) agreed to play Ben Daimio in the new “Hellboy” movie. But when he found out that the character is half Asian he turned down the role, saying he did not think it was appropriate for him to take the part. “Representation of ethnic diversity is important, especially to me as I have a mixed heritage family. It is our responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and to give voice to inclusivity. It is my hope that one day these discussions will become less necessary and that we can help make equal representation in the Arts a reality,” he wrote.
On one hand, there is the view that any actor should be able to play any part. But given the extreme disparity in the treatment of minority actors, that should not apply until as many non-white, female, GLBTIA, and disabled actors are being cast in any part that does not specifically rely on being a cis-gender white male. We salute Skrien for taking this position and hope it shames the producers into hiring an actor whose ethnicity is consistent with the character he is playing.