Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Importance of the Urban Chameleon…

a note from the editor

Having only started, Home of the Urban Chameleon a couple of months ago I am still having new revelations about the importance and intended purpose of this blog. We always encourage you to click on the link How The Urban Chameleon Came To Be, to get the back story of how it all started but I thought I would share my evolving perspective.

The other day my husband and I were having brunch with two friends, one of which is a working Black actor in the “business”. I find that actors of color often give some of the best perspective on being a person of color probably because they are cast in stories based on just that… color. The discussion was brought back to how after studying acting in college when it was time to graduate the white boys in the class couldn’t possibly begin to understand how significantly different their journey as an actor would be from a Black actor. White boys get to play an array of different types and even get to make films like Brazil, About Schmidt, Waiting for Guffman, A Clockwork Orange and have television shows like Seinfeld, a show about nothing. In fact casting directors may more often say to a white boy hmmm, he’s not good for the role of Jimmy but how about John, or Bob, wait have we explored him as Steve, how about Tim, okay maybe Roger?” A Black man or women may hear something closer to, “Oooh we’ve already cast that part.” Yes that one part.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can recognize progress that’s been made. For instance, the fact that Will Smith is the top Hollywood star and making films that traditionally would have not been given to a Black actor is remarkable. I will also be running to the theater to see the film Imagine That, this Friday, which stars Yara Shahidi (the young, gorgeous, Black and Persian actress) and Eddie Murphy; for anything that promotes a person of color having an imagination is like a no brainer for me I’m so there.

However, it’s still slim pickin’s for actors of color (and I’m especially not just talking about Black actors), which means it's slim pickin’s for the kinds of stories that reflect our lives, our diverse, dysfunctional, complex and amazing lives.

We encourage you to continue to e-mail your stories and thoughts and share your multiple perspectives so that we might be able to inspire more options than just that one part. The idea behind Home of The Urban Chameleon is that we are so colorful that we’re complex, and so complex that it is more than color that defines us.

Thanks for reading.

Your fellow Urban Chameleon.

Have your Urban Chameleon story featured by e-mailing

Click here for: How The Urban Chameleon Came To Be


  1. I agree with you on this -- though I can't abide Eddie Murphy and won't be seeing "Imagine That."

    Living in LA, I feel that the issue isn't whether there are enough roles for black actors, but the range of roles. I love that Chandra Wilson's character on Grey's Anatomy was originally imagined as a small blond, but they decided to go with Chandra, b/c she was just awesome in the role. I wish that more casting directors had open minds like that.

    As a writer, I struggled with this issue as a screenwriter, and one of the reasons I switched to novel writing is b/c it gave me the ability to write the sort of random black women characters that I wanted to see, how I wanted to see them. I did sell my first "strange black girl" novel, but I do wonder how it would've fared as a screenplay in Hollywood.

    What do you think we can do as black artists to alleviate this problem?

  2. Hahaha. I’m actually only going to see Imagine That to represent the little girl that stars as I’m a big fan of hers and also heard that the film is remarkable and a tear jerker and not the Eddie Murphy chitlin show. But if I had no connection to this girl I would be right with you for I haven’t been a fan of Eddie’s since Coming to America. However, I have to wonder are we contradicting ourselves here? We’re asking for roles with more range for people of color but in the case of Imagine That, a story that typically would not have starred a person (let alone TWO people) of color, which is about this little girl who gets her father to spend more time with her by taking him on an imaginary journey, which I’m sure concludes in a stronger bond between them – we are resistant to support! Why is that? (Hello a story that is not about a dead beat father and a mother on welfare!)For me, I know I’ve been so pissed off at Eddie from his more recent films with all that coonery and again if I had no relation to the girl I too would be protesting. But are we as “progressive folks” so caught up in our grudges that we miss the opportunities when it IS time to support? If we don’t support nothing will change ‘cause the only thing out here that talks is money. This same equation applies to Tyler Perry (ayayay) or even Tupac Shakur who was upset that more people didn’t buy his record “Dear Mama” after complaining that he doesn’t rap positively about women. Are we shooting our selves in the foot? Anyway, this is part of the reason I started The HOTC blog to explore these complex thoughts and showcase the spectrum of perspective. Keep on keepin’ on. Let’s continue brainstorming annnnnnd
    p.s. we would love your story about your journey as a writer in trying to fight this uphill battle.
    Thanks for commenting.

  3. I just love this post.
    And I will be seeing Imagine That!

    As a screenwriter/filmmaker having attended an HBCU, I know first hand the creative talent among people of color. I remember my Sophomore year, feeling so full of hope - delighting in the awesomeness that was my generation...only now ten years later, seeing many of those classmates struggling still to get their stories out there. They've either had to find alternate routes, paper chase, or are staying true to the passion, but not quite hitting that "big break".

    But know this: I do encourage all the wildly creative, intuitive, prophetic, visionary thinkers to stay the course - no matter what your path. Do not be swayed by this tarnished society. If you can see it, be it. Believe like it's sophomore year in college - and save like your grandpa!