Black actors say there aren’t enough measures to protect them from racist abuse online
Sophia Wilson, black cast member of the show Freeform “The climb”, a docu-reality series about six Gen Z creatives navigating their careers in New York, says she’s received a flurry of racist messages online, including “some really weird and scary emails” since the premiere of the show last month.
Although Wilson said she was ignoring the comments, it took a toll on her mental health.
“It was pretty hard to navigate it,” Wilson said of the racist comments, adding that it was his television debut. “I knew it was just going to get bigger, the more people see and hear me on their screens.”
Like Wilson, 22, other black creatives in Hollywood said their newfound stardom exposed them to a flood of racist harassment and abuse online. ‘Stranger Things’ star Caleb McLaughlin, who plays Lucas Sinclair, has opened up about Comic Con in Belgium last week about the fight against fan racism. At previous conventions, McLaughlin has said that some fans didn’t stand in his line for the cast meet because he was black. Later, McLaughlin’s parents told the young actor, “It’s a sad truth but it’s because you’re the black kid on the show.”
“Even now, some people don’t follow me or support me because I’m black. Sometimes overseas you feel the racism, you feel the bigotry,” said McLaughlin, 20. “Sometimes it’s hard to talk about and for people to understand, but when I was younger it definitely affected me a lot.”
McLauglin’s experience comes as other black actors have spoken in recent months about their experiences with racism from fans and racist taunts on social media. In September, Ismael Cruz Córdova, who is Afro-Puerto Rican, and Sophia Nomvete, who is South African and Iranian, said they had been bombarded with bigoted comments about their roles in “The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power”. ; Córdova played the elven warrior Arondir, and Nomvete was Princess Disa, the first dark dwarf. Meanwhile, in August, Steve Toussaint, who stars in the “Game of Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon” as Lord Corlys Velaryon, says his cast in the series was “very hard for people to swallow”.
“[Fans] are happy with a flying dragon. They’re happy with white hair and purple eyes, but a rich black guy? It is beyond pale,” he said.
Mike Muse, a pop culture pundit and host of “The Mike Muse Showon SiriusXM said Hollywood needs to provide more support for young black actors facing racist abuse.
“It’s unfortunate that someone so talented and gifted has to feel that their artistry doesn’t come before their identity,” Muse said. “It is up to studio executives, producers and media executives to ensure they create safe spaces for people who are marginalized and victims of racism and bigotry and surround them with as many resources as possible.”
Muse called on media executives to have more conversations with talent about racist bullying.
“Listen to these people to make sure their complaints are addressed,” Muse said. “Make sure these actors feel valued and feel like they’re inherently and authentically part of the team, part of the cast.”
Muse added that it’s important that cast members of color aren’t siled during draws, but are treated with the same respect and value as their white co-stars.
“Also, ensuring they have the ability to have equal billing in terms of media opportunities to tell their stories about their character and the show,” Muse said, adding that it’s important that “talent of color isn’t just being pigeonholed into outlets that only serve people of color, primarily, but they have the opportunity to speak to people of color as well as other publications.
“I think that’s one of the ways they can help ensure that these people are seen as a valued member of the cast and the content that’s produced,” he said.
Wilson said she used yoga and therapy, among other strategies, to deal with bullying and negativity online. She also said the leaders were sensitive to her concerns.
“It’s obviously extremely new to me,” Wilson said. “Staying with my family and friends and expressing how I feel to them has definitely helped me a lot.”
Her “Come Up” co-star Ebon Gore, a 24-year-old transgender woman from Brooklyn, said she faced a similar battle with sarcastic and racist remarks online. Gore said she was proud of McLaughlin for calling for more responsibility in the entertainment industry.
“It’s time we addressed these issues in Hollywood,” she said. “When are things going to change? Or when are more people going to talk about it?