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Inside Quotes - Morris Chestnut: 'Wesley Snipes Opened It Up For Us Dark-Skinned Brothers'

by Tambay A. Obenson
July 10, 2013 7:45 PM
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“You’re talking to the right person, because when I was coming up, it was all about Prince, Michael Jackson, Jesse Jackson. So it was really difficult for me coming up. Matter of fact, my first production company when I started was called ‘Dark Skin Productions,' because it was difficult breaking in. And then, Wesley Snipes broke through, and he opened it up for us dark-skinned brothers. Some of my boys, Shemar Moore, they’re light-skinned, they get theirs too. There’s enough for everybody.”

Morris Chestnut talking to a live audience at the recent 2013 Essence Music Festival, responding to a question about whether dark-skinned black men have had as difficult a time getting into the biz (specifically acting), here in the USA, as much as dark-skinned women.

Maybe there's a conversation to be had about "Dark Boys" too. Maybe not. 

Chestnut also dishes on the upcoming sequel to The Best Man, The Best Man Holiday, and some other items.

Watch the interview below:

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More: Morris Chestnut

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  • El-Aaron | July 11, 2013 9:54 PMReply

    It's not strictly a question of shadism. It's just as much about "negroid features" as it is about degree of skin blackness. If you go back to even black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, the actors chosen were not only pale Negroes but they also had Caucasian features and hair. Whitish looks made them less threatening and made them more acceptable than the "inferior" Blacks. Today, skin blackness takes a back seat as an employability factor for young black male actors trying to make it in the world of white producers. Young black actors are more likely to succeed because of having non-threatening features that make them appealing to crossover audiences. The examples are Lance Gross, Wesley Snipes, Don Cheadle, Courtney Vance, Omar Epps, Flex Alexander, Taye Diggs, Mekhi Phifer, Richard T. Jones, Anthony Mackie --- and don't forget the up-and-coming (Euro-black) Africans beginning with Idris Elba, Djimon Honsou, Eamon Walker, David Oyelowo and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

  • Dan | July 12, 2013 2:01 PM

    WTF are you talking about? Non-threatening features? What broad nose, big thick lips, dark brown eyes, broad shoulders, hips and ass??!! What??!! I can't these sites have some of the strangest and most coo-coo people ever...LAWD!!!!

  • BOBBY REL ENT | July 11, 2013 2:36 PMReply

    What about Sidney Pointer , Richard Roundtree,Yapette Koto

  • Samuel | July 11, 2013 11:57 AMReply

    The Wesley line was a Bruce Bruce joke, which the public takes as the truth (or the Light skinned is out of style, but making a comeback joke). Post School Daze, there has been a retroactive view of history of how things have been. Where the story Spike was telling was a real one, people looked to see the same things in TV, Film and Music, not just in black society, which is isn't an exact fit. In film and TV, our black leading man was Sidney Poitier. There were/are light-skinned actress, but there was Judy Pace who was doing a lot of work. In the music industry, I don't think you can play the complexion game, when you have multiple black artists of various complexions being successful. It's tough when people bring up Al B. Sure and say "He was the man before Big Daddy Kane or Wesley Snipes." They forget the Al B. fell off, not just because of his sophomore efforts, he went on tour with New Edition and Bobby Brown and couldn't compare to their stage show. Al B exited stage left. Then Al B became the scapegoat of success because of his complexion.

  • Donella | July 11, 2013 1:08 PM

    Yeah it was basically a throw away line on Def Comedy Jam. I couldn't remember if it was J. Anthony Brown or Bruce Bruce, but I think you're right, it was Bruce Bruce. The audience roared but didn't take it so seriously as people are taking it here. I don't think Morris is taking it seriously either. He's just screwing with Shemar. They're buds. Even Shemar joked about Bruce Bruce's joke when Tavis Smiley interviewed them for The Brothers. I saw a joke elsewhere that when Wesley stuck the knife in Christopher William's hand and then shot Allen Payne in New Jack City, that was when light skinned men went out of style.

  • Onaje | July 11, 2013 11:39 AMReply

    Also to act as if when you see and think Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier, Paul think Wesley Snipes is a flat out lie... Wesley was the guy that would typically get cast as the gangster, hood, deviant, yet flipped that into being a ladies man and hero...that was a major thing. He wasn't a classical prototype of the infamous "Safe Negro" look...

    Also if I'd have to pinpoint a dark skinned entertainer that wasn't in that "safe" image that made being it more attractive outside of stereotypical roles it would be Eddie Murphy before Snipes...

  • Onaje | July 11, 2013 11:32 AMReply

    really? this is what we are going to do? We are going to act as if the dark skinned black male has been given a gift in the industry or in some way had it easier? Okay...if that is true why is it the dark skinned black male has one of the poorest images? Oh because they cast themselves in these many diverse and well written atypical roles they get...yup lighter skinned people have it soo bad...

    I would agree women have it much worst, but to try to paint this picture like being a Black male especially a dark skinned black male has been one of privilege is dismissive of the truth and trails they face to not just be seen, but be respected and be empowered enough to control their image...

    Why not a discussion on "Dark Boys"?!? Incredibly dismissive...

  • AccidentalVisitor | July 12, 2013 12:18 AM

    You're twisting things. No one is suggesting that the industry has been easy on any type of black people, regardless of complexion. We are disputing however Morris' vision that dark-skinned black actors were hidden away in the backlots of Hollywood studiosuntil Wesley Snipes came in and changed perceptions. That's bs.

  • AccidentalVisitor | July 11, 2013 11:01 AMReply

    Yeah, those comments by Morris are strange. Other than possibly daytime TV there has never been too long a stretch over the past fifty or so years in which dark-skinned black men were being neglected in favor of ligh-skinned black men in Hollywood. Hollywood, for the most part, hasn't even known what to do with light-skinned black men.

    Maybe some people's definition of light-skinned differ from mine. For example I put Billy Dee Williams under the dark-skinned category but there are a couple of people I've known who thought differently. I don't think Billy Dee can pass any "bag test" so thus he is definitely dark-skinned to me; there are simply various shades of "dark" (as they are for "light").

  • lauren | July 12, 2013 8:32 AM

    @accidental visitor-that's not what I'm saying at all. Note that Idris Elba and his fine self is NOT on that list! What I meant is there's an obvious double standard; ie are any black actresses that have the same level of "attraction" as the men I mentioned getting much work? No. Light complexioned, pretty women are the go to choice. Like Oceans 13 for example: There's brad Pitt, george Clooney, Matt Damon...AND Don Cheadle and Bernie Mac! If there was a black woman in the group do you have any doubts it would be Paula Patton, Halle Berry et al and NOT Adepero Oduye? It's a man's world at the end of the day irregardless of race. How about Phillip Seymore Hoffman paired with Marisa Tomei in before The Devil Knows You're Dead?

  • AccidentalVisitor | July 12, 2013 12:21 AM

    I don't know what Lauren is trying to say. Is she suggesting all of those "5" level black actors who are lucky to get chicks are not so attractive because they are of darker somplexions?

  • lauren | July 11, 2013 12:12 PM


  • lauren | July 11, 2013 12:11 PM

    Puleaze! What kind of play would Danny Glover, Don Cheadle, Forrest Whitaker... if they weren't known actors? Your dime a dozen and natural selection comments are off topic and wack.

  • Troy | July 11, 2013 11:30 AM

    Lauren even stranger comment from you. Are you saying most black male actors are in attractive and because of that they couldn't even get a coffee date from their com-stars in the real world. Yea you see how Halle Berry gets passed around in the real world. Beautiful women are a dime a dozen. It doesn't even transfer in their survival ability. Natural selection says beauty will not extend a woman's life expectancy.

  • lauren | July 11, 2013 11:18 AM

    So true! The basic rule in Hollywood is black men in film with few exceptions are way darker than the roles doled out to black women where light is aight. Also most of the brothers making it out there are a 5 on a scale of 10 and couldn't get a coffee date withe their female counterparts in the real world.

  • BluTopaz | July 11, 2013 10:33 AMReply

    As a follow up question she should have asked him are there any women in The Best Man with his complexion.

    And with Al B. Sure, Taimak, the DeBarges et al he uses MICHAEL JACKSON as an example of lightskinned Black male celebs when he was growing up? He is either reaching or stupid.

  • Donella | July 11, 2013 1:02 PM

    Christopher Williams and Terrance Trent D'Arby too.

  • get these nets | July 11, 2013 10:07 AMReply

    did he actually "Jesse Jackson"?

    shit is hilarious

    and it wasn't was Big Daddy Kane that opened it up for dark dudes

  • Onaje | July 11, 2013 11:34 AM

    Remember Jesse was THEE Black leading voice of the time...he ran for president twice and was probably was the most publicized Black male figure arguably not considered an entertainer (music, movies, athletics, etc)...

  • julius hollingsworth | July 10, 2013 10:31 PMReply

    There is always an exception to the rule when the people with the dollar want to make an exception.Simple.If your apart of the club .Your apart of the club.If your not ,your not.The rules only belong to those not apart of the club.

  • Selfmentor | July 10, 2013 8:59 PMReply

    Dot take it so serious all most every actor is out to be the biggest star ever. It is the only way they can dream themselves out of their small towns. So he may feel like his dark complexion made it hard for him to beat Tom Cruise out for roles.

  • Yaphet Kotto | July 10, 2013 8:56 PMReply

    Me and Grace Jones didn't have a problem getting roles.

  • Jeni | July 11, 2013 2:24 PM

    LOL! He and Bill Duke were two actors I thought of when I started reading this post.

  • Troy | July 10, 2013 8:54 PMReply

    Skin complexion may not matter but you must be a bimbo and have a general lack of awareness for the world around you to be a celebrity. Even the so called conscious stars helping out Africans don't do the same in America. He'll they leave studio lots pass by areas full of hungry young kids.

  • ernest champell | July 10, 2013 8:35 PMReply

    sidney Poitier......sammy davis junior .... ....nat king cole...bill cosby ....jim brown carl weathers...i mean what the hell is he talking about. the light skinned dark skinned bullshit is do tired!

  • El-Aaron | July 12, 2013 2:13 AM

    Only a few break through as star or action hero. But a lot of Black guys were getting work along with Wesley Snipes. Before Morris Chestnut and Snipes there was Danny Glover, Paul Winfield, Yaphet Kotto, Brock Peters, Ving Rhames, Delroy Lindo, Jim Brown and Rapher Johnson. Among Chestnut's contemporaries he's got Courtney Vance, Wood Harris, Don Cheadle. And young Black up and comers include Anthony Mackie and Lance Gross to name a few. It's easy enough to disprove Morris Chestnut's thoughtless statement.

  • Anton | July 11, 2013 2:49 AM

    Let's not forget the great Paul Robeson, too! They were all before Wesley Snipes.

  • Rocket | July 11, 2013 1:40 AM

    I agree. It's old. Could it be that Morris is the one with hang up? As you noted, dark skin didn't stop Cosby from owning the 80's or Denzel from owning the 90's.

  • Dana | July 10, 2013 8:24 PMReply

    I'm gonna call BS on this one. Dark complected black men have never been shunned from movie industry and history bares witness to this. On the other hand, dark women stay catching hell, particularly from their own communities.

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