Hollywood has been casting British actors in American parts for years. Christian Bale played Batman. Henry Cavill is Superman. Daniel Day-Lewis was Lincoln. Idris Elba starred as Stringer Bell on The Wire. And even all-American Peter Parker was played by Andrew Garfield and now Tom Holland. All British actors. All traditionally American roles.
The latest British thespian to play an American in a blockbuster hit is Daniel Kaluuya, who stars as the lead character in Jordan Peele’s Get Out. But Samuel L. Jackson is wondering why that part didn’t go to an American.
During a recent interview with New York radio station Hot 97 promoting his upcoming film Kong: Skull Island, Jackson discussed the casting of Kaluuya in Get Out, a horror film that tackles race in America, specifically how white American liberals treat black men and women.
“That’s a whole other story,” he said when asked about Get Out. “I think it’s great that that movie is doing everything it’s doing, and people are loving it and they’re feeling it … but the thing in my mind is, I know the young brother who’s in the movie, and he’s British. There are a lot of black British actors that work in this country. All the time. I tend to wonder what would that movie have been with an American brother who really understands that in a way. Because Daniel grew up in a country where they’ve been interracial dating for a hundred years. Britain, there’s only about eight real white people left in Britain. … So what would a brother from America made of that role? I’m sure the director helped. Some things are universal, but everything ain’t.”
In addition to Kaluuya, Jackson cited the decision to cast David Oyelowo as civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma as another example. “There are some brothers in America who could have been in that movie who would have had a different idea about how King thinks or how King felt,” he said.
Asked why he felt black British actors scored roles ahead of African-Americans, Jackson said, “They’re cheaper than us for one thing. They don’t cost as much. Unless you’re an unknown brother that they’re finding somewhere.” He added, “They think they’re better trained, for some reason, than we are because they’re classically trained. I don’t know what the love affair is with all that. It’s all good. Everybody needs to work, but there are a lot of brothers here that need to work too. They come here because there are more opportunities, and they actually get paid when they work here. Which is fine.”
Jackson’s comments echo his frequent collaborator Spike Lee, who said in a Guardian article in 2015, “Their training is very proper, whereas some of these other brothers and sisters, you know, they come in here, and they don’t got that training.”
As for how Kaluuya ended up as the star of Get Out, Peele told EW in an earlier interview that he chose the actor because of his charisma and relatability. “I needed a guy who at no point in the movie made you go ‘Well, he’s just stupid right here.’ That’s Daniel,” he said. “Maybe he’s a little more observant than we would be in his shoes if we didn’t know it was a horror movie.” Peele said initially that he wasn’t interested in casting a British actor because he felt the situation was specifically American, but those concerns dissipated once he met Kaluuya.
Jackson is not the first Hollywood celebrity to point out the number of British actors taking American roles. Michael Douglas has previously asked for the industry to rethink its hiring practices while director Spike Lee recognized in the past that British actors get the classical training that American actors often don’t receive.
Oyelowo responded to Jackson’s remarks in a statement to EW on Wednesday, saying, “I love Sam Jackson. I hope my work does its own talking.”
Peele did not respond to a request for comment.
— Kevin P. Sullivan contributed to this report.