While the black experience is diverse and multifaceted, films don’t always portray the various aspects of the African American life. Joe Morton echoed that sentiment in a HuffPost Live interview on Wednesday, during which he looked back on the rough time he had landing film roles early on in his career.
Although Morton started in theater, once he received acclaim for his work in “Brother From Another Planet,” the film roles started to roll in. The downside was he didn’t exactly fit the casting directors’ expectations.
“[My character in] ‘Brother from Another Planet’ didn’t speak at all, so the [casting directors] had no idea, really, who I was,” he said. “I would walk into a room and this voice would come out and they would think, ‘Oh, you’re not urban enough, not southern enough, not black enough.’ All that kind of stuff. So that was a shock for me.”
Morton didn’t take that sort of “stupid” criticism lying down. In fact, the actor said on one occasion where a white director questioned another actor’s blackness, he spoke his mind and didn’t hold back.
“I just raised the roof. I said, ‘First of all, I’m not interested in your script, and how dare you tell an actor that he’s not who he is? I’m sure if a white actor walked in you wouldn’t say you’re not white enough,'” Morton told host Ricky Camilleri.
Morton explained that his understanding of his racial identity started forming at a young age. After moving around the world until he was 10 years old, he started public school in Harlem and found that he didn’t share many of the same interests as his peers.
“Although [the other students and I] were the same color, although we were fighting the same ‘good fight,’ there were just huge differences,” he said. “I was, at the time, speaking … three different languages. I spoke English, Japanese and German at that time. I didn’t play basketball because I’d learned how to ice skate.”
He realized that having a shared skin tone did not necessarily mean having a shared life experience.
“I was the stranger with my nose pressed up against the window pane looking in, in a situation where I shouldn’t have been, if you see what I’m saying,” he added.
Watch the full HuffPost Live interview with “Scandal” star Joe Morton here.