This Tuesday (May 5), "Selma" will hit DVD and Blu-Ray after a triumphant theatrical run, a controversial awards season, and enough racially charged tension in the United States to fuel at least ten more movies. We already know that director Ava DuVernay and star David Oyelowo are going on to do great things (like "Queen Sugar" and "Captive," respectively), but what about the lesser-known faces that filled out the "Selma" cast? Will they have more opportunities to star in more tentpole-level motion pictures like "Selma," or will they have to keep searching for bit roles on television and in indie movies until the next slavery or Civil Rights epic comes along?
The answer, according to SAG-AFTRA's National Director of EEO and Diversity Adam Moore, really depends on whether or not you and your friends actually went to see "Selma."
"So long as audiences... just continue to spend their money and their time on things that look much like they have for the past several decades, then no, I don’t think things will change," Moore told MTV News over the phone. "But... if audiences start voting with their dollars and their eyeballs in the way that we’ve seen, by going to where the more complex three-dimensional content is, then the studios and the networks and greenlighters and gatekeepers will continue to move in the direction that they’re moving."
That direction, which Moore says is spearheaded by more diversity within a wider range on content on "cable, new media, user-generated stuff, reality TV, independent film and global cinema," is towards more movies about people of color that are not only about history, like "Selma," but about day-to-day life, like Justin Simien's recent critical hit "Dear White People," and TV shows like "Fresh Off the Boat." Because if movies don't start to move in that direction, viewers already know that there's somewhere they can get it.
"People are starting to slowly but surely recognize that they’re limiting themselves by telling the same stories," Moore continued. "In the potential pool of great stories that no one has seen before that people are hungry for... audiences are showing quite clearly, if you don’t do that for us, we will go somewhere else to find it. We’ll go watch ‘Transparent’ because no one else is going to do that. We’ll go watch ‘Orange is the New Black,’ because nobody else is doing that."
After all, numbers have already proven -- with both of the aforementioned shows, and movies like "Selma" -- that audiences of all shape, size and color are interested in stories about people who live outside their own communities. (And of course, that typically marginalized audiences are also relieved to see their own faces finally represented onscreen.)
"People who are watching ‘Orange is the New Black’ are not just female inmates," Moore explained. "Clearly, everyone on the planet likes looking in on a world that they don’t know. What we see onscreen, some of the most compelling content that you find has to do with stuff outside of your own community. You watch it because you don’t know what that is. Certainly there’s something to ‘finally, I get a real representation of what it’s like for a group of young people of color to go to an Ivy League school,' or 'people are speaking to my experience for once in Fresh off the Boat or Empire' but a lot of it is... this is fiction, you suspend your disbelief, you want to go someplace else. Someplace other than where you are. So people are starting to tap into this long underserved pool of content and creativity and individuals to tell those stories, both behind the camera and onscreen."
Of course, there's also the matter of actors of color getting cast in films that are not about their own communities, like in typically white male-dominated superhero movies. This is another area in which movies have been eclipsed by television -- look to The CW's "Arrow" and "The Flash" for proof that casting actors of color in roles that were white in comics can work -- but Moore says that, again, supporting tentpole films that embrace diversity (like the "Furious" films, or Michael B. Jordan in the upcoming "Fantastic Four") will prove to the people who make casting decisions that deviate from the norm is the right idea.
And hey, even if that doesn't happen right away, actors (and directors) of color can still look to people like DuVernay and Simien, and follow their trailblazing path until they get the eyeballs that are needed -- because believe it or not, audiences are hungry for more "Dear White People" and "Selma."
"I think ‘Selma’ is part of a community of storytellers who have finally decided, 'we’re not going to wait anymore for people to tell the stories that we want to tell, we’re just going to go make them,'" Moore concluded. "Some of that’s because, in the case of 'Selma,' someone like Ava DuVernay -- who’s been doing things that she’s wanted to do and projects that she’s felt passionate about in the new media space and in the indie scene for a while -- got the respect and critical attention from the larger community to get the funding to put together a major film like this. You’re seeing people who are realizing some greater financial investment because of their commitment to telling untold stories from underrepresented communities over the years. We’re seeing more and more people get into this space because they see that, from folks like Ava and others who are in those spaces... there is a path for them to tell complicated, three-dimensional, authentic stories, and get it seen by millions of people."