In an interview with The New York Times, actress Lupita Nyong’o and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah sat down over brunch to talk about diversity in Hollywood (including #OscarsSoWhite), unconscious biases, and their own creative outlets.
Lupita Nyong’o: In a film like “12 Years a Slave,” race is of the utmost importance. But there are stories outside the race narrative that everyone can participate in. But we don’t. It’s about expanding our imagination about who can play the starry-eyed one.
Trevor Noah: Exactly!
LN: We also have to ask ourselves what merits Oscar prestige. Often, they’re period stories. And for people of color, they end up being about slavery or civil rights. A blockbuster won’t do it. Do I have to be in a big Elizabethan gown?
TN: It’s always been a joke about the Oscars: If you want to win, lose weight, gain weight or get ugly, like Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club” or Charlize Theron in “Monster.”
LN: Those big leaps of courage.
Philip Galanes (NYT): But even those films were based on true stories.
LN: “True” is a definite advantage.
TN: But also a limitation. We have to keep going back to Martin Luther King or Malcolm X. My question is: Can’t we remove “true story” and go for “amazing story”?
On trying to hire diversity:
TN: When it comes to diversifying, I had never realized how ingrained people’s mentality can be. It’s not even conscious. When I was looking for new people to try on [The Daily Show], the network sent out all their tentacles. And people sent in audition tapes. And 95 percent of them were white and male. I was like: Does nobody else want to be a part of this show? Does nobody else even want a job?
PG: What did you do?
TN: I said, “I want more diversity.” And they said, “But this is what we’re getting.” So I said, “Then I will go out and look for it in the street.”
LN: However they were reaching out was not reaching into diverse communities.
TN: So I went to all the young comedians I knew — black, Hispanic, female, whatever — and I said, “Are you interested?” And they all said: “Are you crazy? Of course, I’m interested.” So I asked, “Why didn’t you audition?” And they said, “We didn’t know about it.” But they told me they’d sent it out to all the agents and managers. And they all went: “Oh, that’s where you made the mistake. We can’t get agents or managers.” We can say we want diversity, but there’s this little roadblock that no one tells you about.
LN: The gatekeepers.
The entire interview is definitely worth reading, especially in advance of tonight’s Oscars, so definitely check it out.
—Please make note of The Mary Sue’s general comment policy.—
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org