Jordan Peele’s Get Out should’ve been more unique to the black American experience, says Samuel L. Jackson. The Kong: Skull Island star told Hot 97 that the social horror thriller ought to have starred an African-American actor in the lead role, not just a black one. “There are a lot of black British actors in these movies,” Jackson told the New York radio station. “I tend to wonder what Get Out would have been with an American brother who really feels that.” Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya, who is British, might not be able to fully sympathize with how black Americans handle white American racism, according to Jackson: “Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for a hundred years. What would a brother from America have made of that role? Some things are universal, but [not everything].” Casting British actors is cheaper, Jackson said, and there is a perception in the industry that they’re always more classically trained. Star Wars star John Boyega, who is from London, dismissed Jackson’s criticism:
For what it’s worth, Kaluuya himself addressed a critique similar to Jackson’s in his chat with Vulture:
Obviously, you and Jordan are both black men, but you grew up on different sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Did you find that what he was expressing in this narrative was something that you strongly identified with in your experience?
One-hundred percent. I know what it means to be stopped by police. I’ve been stopped by police a lot. And the party scene, when everyone was highlighting how black Chris was and saying “black” things and being nice. You kind of can’t say anything, because you know the intention is to make people feel welcome. However, the impact is making people feel isolated and different, because you just want to feel included, like you belong. That’s what the conflict is, and that’s what it captured. Only a black guy could write this, only someone that lives this. I’ve been to so many parties in England and in America that’s exactly like that, where you’re kind of like seen as Other. When you’re just living your life, and you have to adopt the Other in order to understand and navigate the society. That’s what I find really cool about it.
Peele made a similar point to the Guardian: A British actor wouldn’t have been his first choice, but Kaluuya made a convincing case.
Update March 9: Jackson told the Associated Press that his critique wasn’t exclusive to Get Out, but a wider indictment of a system that hires Black British actors for African-American roles, but never vice-versa. “It was not a slam against them, but it was just a comment about how Hollywood works in an interesting sort of way sometimes,” Jackson said at the premiere of Kong: Skull Island Wednesday. “[African-American actors are] not afforded that same luxury, but that’s fine, we have plenty of opportunities to work. I enjoy [black British actors’] work.”