Former Vampire Diaries actress and singer Kat Graham is not one to hold her tongue, and rightfully so, especially when it comes to racist trolls online. Ahead of voicing first black April O’Neil on the upcoming animated Nickelodeon film, Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Graham got candid with Bustle on the racism and discrimination that she faced and issued a warning to trolls.
“I can’t say why anyone would leave social media but the bullying can be bad,” Graham said. “I’ve dealt with a lot of racism and anti-Semitism but I’m a tough b*tch. I can take it. My sassy black girl-ness is all on this screen. I’m very happy with it.”
When asked if she was concerned with racist trolls, Graham remained defiant. “No, bring it,” she said. “I’m a black Jewish actress. I’m pro-LGBTQ. I’m not afraid of anything. If anything, I’ll get louder.”
During the TCA press tour, she said this about the character: “They decided to go with an African-American actress and African-American character. I knew that being part of Ninja Turtles was going to be a big deal, but I had no idea the weight of that decision and how important it would be because when I was growing up, there were no young black cartoon characters — female, anyways — that were in this position,” said Graham during TCA. By the time there were, I was a little older; too much older to appreciate it. My take on this character and what I hope to bring to this character is not just what comes with being a young Black girl, but the fierceness, the being able to hang with the boys, the playfulness, the strength. I want young girls to see this and see that there’s a brown cartoon character that they can relate to, that they can say, ‘Well, April O’Neil did it, so I can do it too!’ If you have a daughter, I want her to watch it and see that she relates to it. So that’s my dream for this character and that’s what I see for her.”
Given the fact that minorities are taking plum roles in traditionally popular properties, racist trolls have been quick to come out the woodwork. Actress Anna Diop received a ton of backlash and deleted her social media when it was announced she is playing Starfire (a character with an orange complexion, in case anyone needed to be reminded) in DC Universe’s Titans.