My post from a few days ago, regarding actress/filmmaker Juliette Fairley’s Mulatto Saga film series, garnered more than a few responses from readers of this site, and other sites that linked to the story.
"There's a lack of roles in Hollywood for bi-racial women. So, I create my own content that I star in and in the process I create work for other actors of all races, genders and nationalities," said Fairley whose mother is white and father African American."
The above quote is actually what lit a fire under most of those who provided comments on the post, rather than the subject of the films themselves. However, creator Fairley believes that her quote was "misrepresented".
S&A has invited Fairley to expound upon her original quote and help us gain a better understanding of what Mulatto Saga is all about.
She has agreed, and you can read her words below, as well as watch her on video HERE:
"Although I respect the journalists working with IndieWire’s Shadow and Act, The Root and MadameNoire.com for doing their job and bringing attention to my films, my intent has been misrepresented so I appreciate the opportunity to explain the context of my quote in print and video http://youtu.be/HuV6iK9CQ9U.
With the arrival of Barack Obama’s presidency, interracial relationships are at the forefront of popular culture, according to a Pew Research Center Study, which found that more than 43% of Americans say people of different races marrying each other has been a change for the better compared to only about one-in-ten who think it is a change for the worse in our society.
In fact, about 15 percent of new marriages across the country in 2010 were between spouses of different races or ethnicities.
It is under this premise that the short film Mulatto Sagapremiered last week in Los Angeles with Jasmine Guy as special guest. The red carpet event was covered by a plethora of press including Getty Images, Wire Image, AllieIsWired.com, Blackfilm.comand many others that gave me a thumbs up. Below are links to a few of the positive pitches.
I invite New York journalists and media outlets to attend the screening of Mulatto Saga and its sequel Juliette Fairley’s Mulatto’s Dilemma in midtown Manhattan on August 22, 2012 from 7pm to 9pm so that they can see my work before prejudging and criticizing the message as well as to meet me and the actors who appear in my short films. They are all gifted and talented whether black, white or in between.
“There’s a lack of roles in Hollywood for biracial women. So, I create my own content that I star in and in the process I create work for other actors of all races, genders and nationalities.” –Juliette Fairley
The above comment was part of an overall discussion about the fact that Mulatto Saga is airing on network affiliates and cable stations across the U.S. from now until early October 2012.
But there is strong context for the discussion of what motivates my work and the thought behind my quote.
When I look at the casting breakdowns every morning I hardly ever see tv or film projects that specifically call for mixed race or bi-racial characters. So, I wrote, produced and starred in Mulatto Saga and Juliette Fairley's Mulatto's Dilemma, which are two short films about the challenges of being bi-racial or mulatta in America. My own casting process lead me to an 8-year-old girl named Cassidy Knight whose father is white and mother African American.
“Cassidy’s been called in to audition for many African American roles in television and film but the problem is that she doesn't fit the way African-Americans are perceived to supposed to look,” said Karla Knight, Cassidy’s mother. “When I saw Juliette Fairley's casting for a bi-racial child actor to portray Little Coquette in the short film Mulatto Saga and Mulatto's Dilemma, I jumped at the chance for Cassidy because it was a perfect match. Rarely, do I see castings calling for bi-racial or mixed race actors.”
The lack of bi-racial stories in tv and film is what has motivated me to write my interracial family story in the form of a 90 page script, which I am seeking funding on indiegogo.com to produce. The feature film is about how the Nazi occupation of France influenced my mother to marry my African American military father who’d grown up under Jim Crow law in North Carolina. The second half of the script discusses the impact of my parents’ interracial marriage on my romantic life, which is where my short films come into the picture.
Although I have a page on http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/180667?c=home
to raise money to produce my projects, I haven’t had the funding to produce the larger feature so I’ve adapted two poignant scenes into short films with a third one on the way.
Mulatto Saga is a 6.5 minute short film directed by Michael Pinckney, Spike Lee’s assistant director. Juliette Fairley’s Mulatto’s Dilemma is the sequel and Juliette Fairley’s Diary of a Mulatto Bride is a follow up short in pre-production that I am currently casting.
Before I turned to the medium of film, I performed the subject matter of being bi-racial as a solo show for the Beverly Hills Hollywood NAACP Theater Festival and at the Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks under the direction of famed filmmaker Charles Burnett. When I consulted with the NAACP this week about the number of African American women compared to the number of mixed race women employed as actresses in tv and film in Hollywood, I was told that bi-racial actresses are lumped together with African American women and that there are no statistics that separate the two. The same goes for Screen Actors Guild.
“When casting breakdowns are written, I encourage casting directors to describe the character not the actor because most performers of color can play a wide range of roles, especially in this increasingly multi-racial society. This practice ultimately benefits the employers as it opens them up to a much wider pool of professional talent,” said Ray Bradford, co-national director of Equal Employment Opportunity & Diversity at SAG-AFTRA in Los Angeles.
I did my own number crunching and here’s what I came up with.
Out of a sampling of 100 characters for women between the ages of 5 and 70 years old advertised on a popular entertainment industry casting website from July 23, 2012 to August 7, 2012, there were 22 roles that requested “African-American” actors, 36 that asked for “Caucasian” actors, 32 called for “Any Ethnicity,” while 5 were designated for “Latino” and 2 for “MixedRace/Creole”.
The good news is that there’s nearly as many “Any Ethnicity” roles as there are designated roles for “Caucasian”and “African American”. The bad news is that only 2 roles specifically call for a “Mixed Race” or “Creole” woman. Thus, if the Mixed Race, Bi-Racial or Mulatto woman didn’t submit herself for “African American”, “Any Ethnicity”, “Hispanic” or even pure “Caucasian” roles, she would be invisible, which is why I’ve created my own content in Mulatto Saga and Juliette Fairley’s Mulatto’s Dilemma that doesn’t require me to speak Spanish.
“The Civil Rights Act doesn’t guarantee employment. It guarantees access to employment. As long as employers fulfill their mandate of providing equal access to jobs, determining one’s race is in the eye of the beholder because the entertainment industry is about perception,” said Bradford.
Perhaps my point of view is being misunderstood.
Looking over my own headshot resume, the roles I've played include tv reporter in an NBC tv pilot, Kent Moran's The Challenger and Dennis Lui's Plurality, a Latina mom in 2 tv commercials and a stage play, including a tv commercial for McDonald's, and Billie Holiday at the Player’s Theatre.
Secondary to the fact that there’s a lack of bi-racial content in tv and film is my desire to work as an actress, which is why I star in the short films that I produce. Given the findings of the Pew Research Center’s 2012 study on interracial marriages and 2010 U.S. Census data, there’s a market for my films.
The number of people who self-identify as two or more races increased from 6.9 to 9 million in the past decade, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.
“Census 2000 was the first census in U.S. history since 1790 that Americans were given the choice to select two or more racial categories. My organization spearheaded that movement,” said Dr. Jungmiwak Bullock, co-founder of the Multiracial Policy Institute and immediate past president of MultiEthnic Americans.
God Bless Sandra Bullock. She’s an icon just like Halle Berry. I have a lot of respect for both of them but let’s face it, Sandra Bullock works a lot more than Halle Berry does and in bigger grossing films. In 2011, Ms. Bullock starred in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close earning $111 million opening weekend compared to New Year’s Eve earning $13 million in which Ms. Berry played a supporting role, according to IMDB.
Yes…Mission Impossible has starred two very prominent and beautiful bi-racial actress in 2000 and most recently in 2011. Is that all it takes? One or two bi-racial women in a Hollywood blockbuster and Mulatto is the “new black”? Try 10 Hollywood block busters in a row starring multiple bi-racial women and then I’ll be convinced that Mixed Race or Mulatto is the “new thing” in tinsel town.
In the meantime, if you’re hungry for bi-racial stories that feature interracial families, please visit my IMDB page http://pro.imdb.com/name/nm2592879/maindetails, like the Mulatto Saga facebook page and follow me on Twitter @MulattoSaga or @JulietteFairley.
Thanks to television syndicator Frank Badami, Mulatto Saga will be seen despite the controversy. For weekly air dates in your city and state, visit http://www.badamitv.com/nowplaying.php. Or if you prefer to purchase a personal copy of Mulatto Saga and its sequel Juliette Fairley’s Mulatto’s Dilemma, visit www.mulattosaga.org or https://www.createspace.com/348046.
And if you happen to have some disposable cash, we could use it to produce my third short Juliette Fairley’s Diary of a Mulatto Bride, which provides acting work for the white, the Afro, the Mulatta, the old, the young, the gay and the straight thespians that are in desperate need of 3-dimensional characters and an outstanding well written script to sink their teeth
I am glad this topic is out of the bag because I want to be understood and to feel that actors like myself have every opportunity available to star in films like Snow White and the Huntsman, Total Recall and The Amazing Spiderman. I don’t see it happening today but maybe in 12 years when my Mulatto Saga co-star Cassidy Knight is 20 years old she’ll be booking lead roles in blockbusters back to back year after year. I welcome future dialogue with any journalist on this issue because the more it’s talked about, the more we can reach a sense of balance on the issue of Mixed Race, Mulatto, Bi-Racial, Ethnically Ambiguous, Other, Creole, Exotic, Zebra, Halfbreed, Redbone or whatever you want to call us."
In addition to being an actress, screenwriter, director and producer, Actress Juliette Fairleyhas written on a freelance basis for Variety, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters. She is a Columbia University graduate and a frequent commentator on EBRU-TV and Better TV. Email her at email@example.com