Over the last few years, both British and American TV has started a fantastic precedent when it comes to thrillers. Casting black actors in leading roles that never even give the race card a second look.
While it might sound simplistic, black lead characters have usually had that factor as a part of their storylines and character. Thankfully though, now we’re finally moving past that and simply having these simply be characters.
This has really showed itself when it comes to the world of the crime drama. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s racial background was never once touched on in The Shadow Line. Neither Luther or Line Of Duty mentioned the ethnicity of their main characters.
In the US this is also the case, with David Harewood’s role in Homeland never looking twice at the character being black. Kerry Washington in Scandal, Don Cheadle in House Of Lies and Andre Braugher in the short lived Last Resort also lead head up their respective shows without the script ever calling attention to the colour of their skin.
While this is just elementary in normal life, the entertainment world is sometimes rather slow in the uptake. Even in this regard though, TV is very much the vanguard, with Hollywood often taking longer than an oil tanker to turn.
In the world of movies, can you think of film that has dared to cast a non-AAA black actor in its leading role over the last few years and not have it be a plot point? Apart from Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Jaime Foxx or Will Smith, the amount of black actors getting mainstream leading roles is negligible at best.
Denzel Washington has spoken in the past about the difficulties of black actors getting leading roles in the movies unless they have a name with the same clout as his. It’s his films that really stand as the pinnacle of this, as not one film of his since Malcolm X has ever had the habit of falling back on the race card.
The unfortunately dull Red Tails must be applauded for putting slightly less known actors into its leading roles. Even then though, that was a story all about a squad overcoming racial boundaries.
Hopefully Hollywood will start following the lead of TV in making its ethnic neutral leading characters be anything else but white, but for now, TV’s proving once again why it’s currently in a golden age.
Complicit is on Channel 4 this Sunday at 9pm.