Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Issa Rae's HBO-Bound 'Awkward Black Girl'-esque Comedy Gets a Director Issa Rae's HBO-Bound 'Awkward Black Girl'-esque Comedy Gets a Director The Irresponsibility of 'What Happened, Miss Simone?' The Irresponsibility of 'What Happened, Miss Simone?' Zadie Smith Will Make Her Feature Screenwriting Debut, Teaming up w/ Claire Denis for Sci-Fi Project Zadie Smith Will Make Her Feature Screenwriting Debut, Teaming up w/ Claire Denis for Sci-Fi Project David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Abderrahmane Sissako, Effie Brown and More Invited to the Academy as Diversity Push Continues David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Abderrahmane Sissako, Effie Brown and More Invited to the Academy as Diversity Push Continues Review: Arriving on Netflix TODAY, Definitive Nina Simone Documentary, 'What Happened, Miss Simone' Review: Arriving on Netflix TODAY, Definitive Nina Simone Documentary, 'What Happened, Miss Simone' Haiti and the Dominican Republic - A Conflict Captured on Film Haiti and the Dominican Republic - A Conflict Captured on Film Fried Chicken & Drugs: 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' Writer Charla Lauriston Creates the Anti-­Strong Black Woman in 'Clench & Release' Fried Chicken & Drugs: 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' Writer Charla Lauriston Creates the Anti-­Strong Black Woman in 'Clench & Release' A Muscle-Bound Michael B. Jordan Hitting a Speed Bag w/ Stallone's Encouragement in Pic from 'Creed' A Muscle-Bound Michael B. Jordan Hitting a Speed Bag w/ Stallone's Encouragement in Pic from 'Creed' Greetings From 'The Walking Dead: Season 6' Set as Daryl Plants an Unexpected Kiss on Michonne Greetings From 'The Walking Dead: Season 6' Set as Daryl Plants an Unexpected Kiss on Michonne Taraji P. Henson Books Lead in 'Hunger Games' Producer's Directorial Debut, ‘The Best Of Enemies’ Taraji P. Henson Books Lead in 'Hunger Games' Producer's Directorial Debut, ‘The Best Of Enemies’ PBS Yanks Ben Affleck 'Finding Your Roots' Episode + Puts Off 3rd & 4th Seasons Until Editorial Standards Improve PBS Yanks Ben Affleck 'Finding Your Roots' Episode + Puts Off 3rd & 4th Seasons Until Editorial Standards Improve Casting News - Teyonah Parris Is Spike Lee's Lysistrata + NWA Biopic Casts its Tupac, Jussie Smollett Heads 'Underground' Casting News - Teyonah Parris Is Spike Lee's Lysistrata + NWA Biopic Casts its Tupac, Jussie Smollett Heads 'Underground' Here's Your First Look At Taye Diggs in the Title Role in 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' Here's Your First Look At Taye Diggs in the Title Role in 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' Teaser: Marques Houston, Keshia Knight Pulliam and Draya Michele Star in TV One Original Movie, 'Will to Love' Teaser: Marques Houston, Keshia Knight Pulliam and Draya Michele Star in TV One Original Movie, 'Will to Love' Starz Announces Return Date for Original Series 'Power' + New Key Art + Trailer Starz Announces Return Date for Original Series 'Power' + New Key Art + Trailer Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates 'Supremacy' Director Deon Taylor Talks Race, Horror, and Working With Lela Rochon (LAFF Premiere) 'Supremacy' Director Deon Taylor Talks Race, Horror, and Working With Lela Rochon (LAFF Premiere) Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

Can't Knock The Hustle? Or Is He Hustling Backwards? (Revisiting U.K. Star Adrian Lester's Casting Choices In Short Film Directorial Debut "Of Mary")

Shadow and Act By Emmanuel Akitobi | Shadow and Act February 23, 2012 at 7:49PM

British actor Adrian Lester has been very vocal in recent months about the lack of professional opportunities afforded to black thespians in the U.K.  Here at S&A, we've followed the story and have repeatedly reported on the sentiment expressed by Lester and several other actors from that region of the world.  However . . .
20
Lester_Mary

British actor Adrian Lester has been very vocal in recent months about the lack of professional opportunities afforded to black thespians in the U.K.  Here at S&A, we've followed the story and have repeatedly reported on the sentiment expressed by Lester and several other actors from that region of the world.  However . . .

 . . . something is amiss with Lester's latest project.  And in the bustle of everyday life-- doing this and, and reading that; watching this, and posting that-- I managed to miss it, even though it was staring me right in the face.

Despite Lester's complaints about the entertainment industry, he's managed to do well for himself, compared to others who have been at it as long as he has and longer.  He's only recently wrapped up a very successful run as lead character Mickey Stone on the hugely popular BBC series Hustle, which ran for an impressive 8 seasons.

However, Lester made very clear his intentions to take his talents to America once Hustle was over, because, as he put it in a 2011 interview with Radio Times:

“As an actor you’re constantly trying to guess how valuable you are to the industry. If you’re a woman you’ll put certain negative things against that, be it age or weight.

“As a black actor you do the same – you’ll only see yourself travelling as far as people like you have travelled. And if no-one like you is doing what you’re doing it’s very hard for you to see yourself going further, and you get frustrated.”

I was extremely delighted, a few months ago, when I learned that Lester had co-written and directed a short film titled Of Mary, and even profiled it here on S&A before its screening at the 2012 London Short Film Festival.  It seemed like, with this project, Lester was taking control of his own destiny, creating his own projects; which, in turn, would lead to him being able to solve that problem of black actors in the U.K. not being considered for the prime roles they so coveted.

Of Mary tells the story of "Jason Lawrence, as he returns home to his estranged wife and son, and how bitter resentment means there is more distance between them than he thought."  Any black actor would surely appreciate the chance to work with someone as accomplished as Lester, bringing the lead role of Jason Lawrence to life on screen.  This was it, right?  Turning tides; shifts in power!

But, alas, it was not to be.

(L-R): Fadipe, Brooke
Nigel Ramdial (L-R): Fadipe, Brooke

The lead role in the short film directed and co-written by a black man who said he was coming to America, because he couldn't find work in his home country, would go to an actor named Tom Brooke, who is not a black actor.  To be fair, Brooke was cast opposite the lovely Kehinde Fadipe, a black actress.  But that elusive lead actor role-- which, seemingly, could have prevented at least one black actor from having to cross the Atlantic ocean to fend off starvation-- remained out of reach, on this project at least.

When I first told readers about Of Mary, I, admittedly, failed to make the connection.  But now that I have, I have to ask you, the S&A faithful, "what part of the game is this?"  Doing your own thing, and creating your own film projects, is a hell of a hustle-move for a black actor who desires more prominent and regular acting opportunities.  But aren't you hustling backwards when you do create the prominent roles you covet, yet continue in the same practices of the industry you've accused of holding you back?

This article is related to: Adrian Lester


Shadow & ActNewsletter