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Star says Hollywood must move beyond tokenism for black people

British actress Jodie Turner-Smith poses during a photocall for the film “After Yang” as part of the Un Certain Regard selection at the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, southern France. — AFP

Hollywood star Jodie Turner-Smith said the film industry must go beyond having token black faces on screen and have people of color at every level of the business. The British actress-who played Henry VIII’s wife Anne Boleyn in a new television series of the same name-said she had been struck by how few people of color work behind the scenes.

Hollywood should stop trying to tell black people’s stories without hiring people of color, she told a “Women in Motion” talk at the Cannes film festival-where her latest sci-fi movie “After Yang” was premiered. “You have to hire producers who understand what kinds of stories we’re trying to tell and how to honor those stories so that you don’t end up with things that feel like tokenism or strange stereotyping,” the “Queen & Slim” star said. “So many times, it’s like (producers say), ‘We are going to tell a story that involves black people’, but there are no black people in the writers’ room, and there are no women in the writers’ room.” She said that some basics were also sometimes lacking.

‘Hire people who know’
“When you make casting choices and you hire actors of color in something, you have to hire people who know how to do their make-up, who know how to do their hair, who know how to light them properly,” she said. Turner-Smith, 34, who is making “White Noise” at the moment with “Marriage Story” director Noah Baumbach, said film and television had a way to catch up on theatre in the way they used black actors. She won plaudits for playing the fated English queen Anne Boleyn, who was white, in the series for Britain’s Channel 5. “I definitely anticipated that there were going to be people that felt a certain way about it,” she said.

“We’ve seen for years and years that in theatre characters being played by people of all different ethnicities, but in TV or film it’s something we see much less.” The actress fell victim to cat burglars while at Cannes, with police investigating a theft of jewelry from her hotel room.

Turner-Smith wore eye-catching gold and diamond jewelry loaned by Gucci to the red carpet premiere of “After Yang” on Thursday. It is unclear if the missing jewelry was Gucci’s or the actress’s own. Her mother’s wedding ring is reported to among the haul. “I didn’t think I would be spending 2.5 hours in the police station on my final day in Cannes, but here we are,” the actress tweeted late Sunday. – AFP


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