Tyler Perry is opening up about his excitement and concern about Hollywood’s recent push for diversity when it comes to the future for Black creators of color.
During his keynote speech at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on Sunday, Perry explained that while he’s “extremely excited” for what this means moving forward, he’s worried that the push will cause for situations where Black people end up “in seats that we weren’t ready for.”
“I worry because there is such a push for diversity and push for hiring people of color that I found situations that there are people being pushed into seats they’re not ready for,” he said according to Deadline.
“At Tyler Perry Studios, we train so many people, we’ve brought people in and they do an amazing job but as soon as people are trained and they know the job, they’re snatched up to go to some bigger production, which is fine because if you want to find people who know their job, if they can make it at my studio they can make it anywhere.
What I don’t want to have is black people in seats that we weren’t ready for, and then have people that are not black that were moved out of seats… If we didn’t get qualifications, the teaching or the education to get there, then how are we given the seats so quickly? It’s my hope that in all of this change and this push for there to be more inclusion, we’re also providing time and training to make sure we can do a great job”
Hmmm. OK, so while I understand what he’s trying to say on the surface, I think it’s important to note that—given his own track record of working with actors who only had very small roles prior to getting their first major starring roles in his shows and films over the years (China Anne McClain, Lance Gross, Tessa Thompson, Trevante Rhodes, etc.)—his concern that actors may be put in “seats they’re not ready for” or in positions prematurely feels a bit...contradictory. Because the argument can be made that some of those actors perhaps shouldn’t have gotten a role on his shows in the beginning either, if we’re going by that logic.
And I can understand his point of saying that by those aforementioned actors and other talented individuals working with him first, it provided a necessary training ground before they went on to bigger projects and roles, but still. This feels off for him to say, especially when we consider the fact that white actors and creatives are often given major roles and projects to helm without having half the credentials that their more melanated peers may have.
Additionally, it’s also off because we know that just because you may have the most qualifications, teaching, and education in the room, that doesn’t always mean that those in positions of power will see the value in that and give you the opportunity. How many Black stars have the prestigious Julliard, UCLA, or equivalent background and still struggle to get roles or films made? That’s why it’s so important and impactful when people like Ava DuVernay purposely seek out those who have that glimmer of talent and potential and put them in spaces where they can grow and evolve in their career—despite whether or not they had connections in the industry.
It’s also important that we don’t fall back into the whole “as a Black person, you gotta work twice as hard to get half as much” mentality that’s shaped so many of us, as its been proven time and time again—some folks just will not put respect on what we bring to the table. And that’s OK. Hopefully, those of us in positions of power will continue to shape and mold the next generation of talent by giving them opportunities both in the initial and continuing stages of their careers for the betterment of their evolution. After all, if we don’t look out for us then who will?