Daniel Radcliffe calls Hollywood racism 'undeniable'

Daniel Radcliffe, the 'Harry Potter' star, told the BBC that although the film world is seen as 'very, very progressive,' it lags other businesses in promoting racial diversity.

Matt Sayles/Invision/AP/File
Actor Daniel Radcliffe posed for a portrait to promote the series, 'Swiss Army Man' during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Jan. 23.

Daniel Radcliffe, star of the "Harry Potter" series, said all is not as it seems in Hollywood.

The film world might appear progressive. But the actor said it is “undeniable” Hollywood is racist compared to other industries.

It’s pretty undeniable,” he said, when asked by BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire if the American film industry is racist. "We like to think of ourselves as being a very, very progressive industry, but we have been lagging behind in all kinds of areas.”

Hollywood has faced its cast of critics and boycotters for its diversity. With no ethnic minority nominees at this year’s Oscars, director Spike Lee and actor Dustin Hoffman boycotted the awards ceremony. However, the Emmys television awards on Sunday received extensive applause for the number of minority, female, and LGBT winners across major categories, separating itself from its film counterparts.

Rami Malek, winner of the Emmy for best actor, said backstage that, to him, that’s progress.

“For me to stand here as not the typical leading man and to come home with this speaks a lot about where we’re headed," Mr. Malek said backstage, where the Egyptian-American actor paid tribute to his immigrant parents, according to USA Today.

"I think we can just keep going further in that direction. It’s not just limited to entertainment, but socially and politically (that) we continue and strive to be as progressive as possible.”

Malek was among four minority actors to win in acting categories, compared to three in 2015.

In his interview with Mrs. Derbyshire, Radcliffe, a film star, didn’t specify if he was criticizing just the film industry or TV too. However, he added gay actors also feel discriminated against. He said some gay actors haven’t come out for fear they will be cast only in gay roles.

Radcliffe said he started to reflect more on racial issues after he played an FBI agent who goes undercover to infiltrate a white supremacist group in the thriller, “Imperium”

Criticism of Hollywood’s lack of ethnic diversity has increased in recent years, with much of the disapproval directed at the film industry and Oscars. In 2015, every acting contender for the Academy Award was white, and no director was female, as Molly Driscoll reported for The Christian Science Monitor earlier this year.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, a black spokeswoman for the Oscars, told the Associated Press in 2015 that the Academy is “committed to seeking out diversity of voice and opinion.” 

“It matters that we pay attention to, again, the diversity of voice and opinion and experience, and that it doesn't slide, it doesn't slide anywhere except for forward," she said. "And maybe this year [in 2015] is more just about let's kick it in even more.” 

The next year, the same thing happened.

Broadcast television, meanwhile, has made strides since actress Viola Davis became the first actress of color to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama in 2015. And GLAAD, the media watchdog founded by LGBT people in the industry, has found diversity on TV is at an all-time high, as Ms. Driscoll also reported.

There are practical explanations for the difference between television and film, writes Steve Johnson, an arts and entertainment writer for The Chicago Tribune.

“Part of the reason for this disparity is that a TV series, by definition, has the time to develop stories. Part of it, of course, is that the cost of entry, of production, is so much lower. But a big part of it, too, is that TV is quicker to react and to recognize the culture is much more than straight and white,” he said, in an article published Monday about the Emmys.

But even some actors called out the Emmys for one demographic that was lacking this year.

“I would not be unhappy were I the last cisgender male playing a female transgender on television,” said Jeffrey Tambor, when he accepted his second Emmy for his role as a transgender women on the Amazon series, “Transparent.” “We have work to do.”

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