Black Hollywood’s Leading Man

”I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don’t like white dudes. But I’ve seen that movie.”

A comical yet serious statement from actor, writer, and director Jordan Peele during his interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Fresh off his second hit movie in a row (US), Peele made it known that he doesn’t plan on straying from the blueprint of success he’s had thus far. And this comment although it received plenty of laughs, Peele made it known that he wants black actors in his leading roles.

In a month, US has eclipsed over $170 million in the box office. That’s almost $30 million more than 2017’s Get Out first thirty days. “The way I look at it, I get to cast black people in my movies. I feel fortunate to be in this position where I can say to Universal, ‘I want to make a $20 million horror movie with a black family.’ And they say yes.” That quote brings me back to a video clip I saw of a black man point to a Black Panther poster and he was repeatedly saying to the camera, “this is how y’all feel all the time?! If I felt like this all the time, I’d love this country too!” As a black man in America, seeing Jordan Peele break records and help usher in a renaissance of sorts for black Hollywood is empowering. And to know that he wants to consistently keep the “Black Owned” vibe in his movies is even better. Especially when filtering through the messages of his films. Peele will be a very busy man in the coming months, especially with the recent revamp of the classic Twilight Zone series. One thing he is making sure of however is that his representation of the black community stays high.

It is not lost on him that he represents something bigger for so many of us “little people” and that is what makes him so special. At one point he was in the running for a cast slot on Saturday Night Live however due to contractual obligations with MadTv, he was prevented from making that jump. Peele reflected on that moment in time with THR. Locking himself in a room, he started, “smoking a lot of weed and plotting his revenge like a comic book super-villain.” Then he said, came the moment of epiphany: “I wanted to be a producer. These producers are making these decisions about art and comedy and they don’t know anything about art and comedy. I want to be a producer and bring my artistry and they’ll all be sorry.” And that they are. Both of his first two films have made – collectively – over $400 million worldwide off a combined $25 million budget.

In 2018, Peele won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, becoming the first black screenwriter to win in this category. In addition to this, he became the third person to achieve nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay for a debut film, and the first black person to receive them for any one film. This is also on top of co-creating TBS’ The Last OG starring Tracy Morgan and Tiffany Haddish. And don’t forget co-producing the Spike Lee directed, Oscar-winning BlackKKKlansman. Next up on the docket is a remake of the classic slasher film Candyman. I’d say the doubters are very sorry. Well done, Mr. Peele…well done.

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