Before landing ABC’s hit drama Scandal, Kerry Washington says she was let go from several television projects for not fulfilling Hollywood stereotypes of black women.
“Before Scandal, I was actually cast in two other pilots. Both went to series, but I was fired and recast,” the 39-year-old actress recently revealed during Variety’s Actors on Actors series, where she was joined by Master of None’s Aziz Ansari.
“For both, it was because they wanted me to sound more ‘girlfriend,’ more like ‘hood,’ more ‘urban,’” she explained.
But Washington isn’t alone. She recounted past conversations she’s had with friends who recalled similar experiences they faced when overcoming Hollywood stereotypes.
“I’ve had friends of mine say they’re tired of ‘gayface’ and I was like, ‘What’s gayface?’ They were like, ‘It’s the gay version of blackface. Like, come in and be more effeminate,’” she recalled pals telling her.
Ansari chimed in with his own stories of casting stereotypes, saying he’s found out after the fact that he booked certain roles because they were looking for a specific look. The actor and comedian even addressed the issue in an episode of Master of None.
“A lot of other minority actors have told me, ‘Oh, this so rings a bell,’ when you go into an audition room and you see a bunch of people that look like you and you just start feeling like, ‘Oh, I’m not here [for me]. I’m here because I fit what looks like the person they want in here,’” the former Parks and Recreation star said.