David Harewood Says Actors “Should Be Able To Do Anything”, Including Blackface

The Black British actor made the controversial remarks in a recent Guardian interview to mark his appointment as president of RADA.

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UPDATE: (May 6, 6:00 PM) A representative for David Harewood reached out to Complex with a follow-up statement: "I don't support or condone BLACKFACE. My own documentary on the subject can be found on the BBC website. It is a grotesque distortion of race and should always be condemned.”

Original story below.

Homeland star David Harewood has caused a stir in a recent interview in which he says he believes that actors should be allowed to “black up” for roles.

The Birmingham-born actor was being interviewed about his recent appointment as president of esteemed UK acting school RADA when he made the controversial statement.

“We’re at this strange point in the profession where people go: ‘Oh, you can’t play that role because you’re not disabled,” he told The Guardian, “or you can’t play that because you’re not really from there.’ The name of the game is acting. 

“Yes, we’ve got to be representative, but I do think we have to be careful… That even extends to Othello in Blackface. I say, if you want to Black up, have at it, man. It’d better be fucking good, or else you’re gonna get laughed off the stage. But knock yourself out! Anybody should be able to do anything.”

Harewood also added that admonishing actors for Blackface was comparable to the heavy criticism he received when he was cast as Romeo in an all-Black 1988 adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet

Of the experience, Harewood said: “Literally the only way I could go on stage was to get hammered. I really didn’t enjoy my experience: I hated acting, hated the profession, hated what I was doing, totally lost my confidence. One reviewer said: ‘Apparently this man went to RADA. Why did they let him in? Why did they let him out?’ Another one said: ‘He doesn’t look like Romeo; he looks more like Mike Tyson.’

“Every interview I did was about my colour: why are you playing Romeo? Should you be playing Romeo? Did Shakespeare write it for a Black actor?”

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