Jesse Williams Slams Hollywood Whitewashing: 'The More Diverse a Movie Is, the More Money It Makes'
By Elisa Osegueda
Photo: Dan Regan
Jesse Williams is a modern-day activist and artist.
The 35-year-old actor has campaigned for civil liberties for most of his life. In 2014, following the shooting of Michael Brown, he became one of the most outspoken individuals in Hollywood to join the Black Lives Matter movement, in an effort to shed light on systematic discrimination and oppression experienced by black people in the United States.
“I dedicated my life to doing [civil rights activism] anyway and now I’ve just added another job to that, which is being on television and in films. I didn’t wake up one day and think, ‘Hey, I’ve got this platform now, what can I do with it?" Williams explains in the latest issue of Hunger Magazine, hitting newsstands on March 16.
"My parents were politically active," he continues. "[They] made sure to always speak to me about a general sense of self-respect and awareness, and an understanding of oppression, systematic discrimination and abuses."
Williams, who is best known for his role as Dr. Jackson on the ABC hit drama Grey’s Anatomy, became a household name last June after giving one of the most powerful speeches of the year during his Humanitarian Award acceptance speech at the BET Awards.
Calling for freedom and justice against an oppressive system, Williams also challenged others to see knowledge in order to become empowered.
"This award, this is not for me," he began his speech. "This is for the real organizers all over the country, the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. All right? It’s kind of basic mathematics. The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize."
Despite having a successful career as an actor, Williams is also taking a hard look at Hollywood and its long history of inaccurate portrayals of people of color and minorities.
“People thought that they had to whitewash every movie to make people go and see it, but that’s statistically bullsh*t," he tells Hunger Magazine. "The more diverse a movie is the more money it makes – statistically.”
“No one is doing us any favors by putting up a poster of Martin Luther King Jr,” he adds. “People need to realize that we’re directly connected to the invention of civilization.”
The full interview by Holly Fraser appears in issue 12 of Hunger Magazine, out on newsstands March 16 -- visit www.hungertv.com.