“About Last Night” writer Leslye Headland opened up recently about how she refused to plug racial stereotypes and racist jokes into her rewrite for the romantic comedy after a Black crew was cast.
Headland was given the responsibility of rewriting the script after Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall and Joy Bryant were cast as the lead characters.
In an article she wrote for The Hollywood Reporter, Headland said she was instructed to change only the dynamics in the relationships between characters but she was soon bombarded with racist jokes.
Luckily, it was never people she worked with who were asking her to change the script simply because the cast was Black.
“The only note was to make the secondary characters (Bernie and Joan) equal to the two protagonists (Dan and Debbie),” she wrote. “A pretty cool directive given that the ‘best friends’ in romantic comedies are almost always commenting from the sidelines. It was a nice way to change up the old formula… There was no discussion of changing the characters’ lifestyles or any of the storyline as a result of casting Black actors.”
Headland explained that, as a white writer, she encountered the type of racism that still exists in the movie industry.
“I had some very interesting reactions to the casting specifically from white people who work in the movie industry,” she continued. “While I was doing the rewrite, I got dozens of really mean jokes most of which I don’t feel comfortable putting into writing here because they were sometimes racist and always hurtful. The most clever one (still lame) was: ‘How’s your David Blamet script going?’ It was like my script was suddenly not as good or less than or just plain not cool because of the casting. Whatever. Those people suck.”
Before Headland even finished the first version of the script she told herself, “Don’t write jokes, Leslye. Write people.”
That’s exactly what Headland did and the relatable yet hilarious characters have been a huge contribution to the film’s success.