Nicole Byer is one of the funniest people on TV. If you’ve ever watched her on the Netflix cooking competition Nailed It!, you know she’s probably the only one who could make those disastrous creations inspiring. Her charm and open comedy style help her stand out from the crowd. She’s not someone who can be put in a box, and yet a certain out-of-line casting director still tried.
While talking to Laverne Cox on her E! Emmys special If We’re Being Honest, the Grand Crew star revealed that during an audition early in her career, a casting director once asked her to “be Blacker.”
“Usually, they say ‘sassy, more street, more urban,’” Byer told Cox. “But I read [the line], and she was like, ‘Can you be Blacker?’”
The Emmy-nominee said the incident happened when she was in her 20s, and being a young actor meant she had to do what was asked of her. “It wasn’t fun, it didn’t feel good to do,” she said. Unfortunately, Byer’s story is not new or unique.
“I was just playing a fairy. And she was like, ‘Be as Black as you can be. If you go too Black, I’ll bring you back,’” Byer said.
When the Orange is the New Black star questioned her about the casting director’s comments, Byer replied, “I was like I don’t know what that means to her.”
In case you’re wondering, the Wipeout host revealed the obvious about this person’s race by singing, “Oh, you know, she was white like the snow.”
There’s no reason other than racism why Nicole Byer couldn’t just audition to play a fun, effervescent fairy. No, she had to be the “Black” fairy, which for this casting director, meant a checklist of stereotypes. This is why we are so adamant about having more representation in front and behind the camera. The only way to stop this from happening is to get more Black people in the rooms where decisions are being made.