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Djimon Hounsou Explains Why Black Superheros Matter: My Son Wished He Was Light Skinned

Djimon Hounsou (Gage Skidmore Flickr)

Djimon Hounsou (Gage Skidmore Flickr)

When it comes to roles for Black actors, Djimon Hounsou believes the new superhero gigs are long overdue.

While speaking to The Guardian about The Legend of Tarzan, Hounsou explains his thoughts on the latest Black superhero projects and what opportunities are open for Black actors.

“It’s about time!” said the the Benin-born actor of the “Luke Cage” series and Black Panther movie. “It’s absolutely great news to have a hero that Black folks can identify with.”

Honsou further explained the need for stories of Black fantasy because of something his 7-year-old son Kenzo Lee said.

“Could you imagine my misfortune when my son told me, ‘I want to be light-skinned so I can climb the walls like Spider-Man’ – just because he has seen Spider-Man and Batman and all these superheroes who were all white. The minute he said it, I was like, damn. My whole self was shattered. I was like, ‘wow, what sort of comeback do you have for this?’ It’s important to recognize yourself.”

Although Hounsou is relegated to a supporting role in the upcoming Tarzan flick, he hopes to break out into a lead role for his next feature.

Still, the pickings are slim.

“There certainly hasn’t been that much out there at this point,” the 52-year-old actor said. “I haven’t come across many leads in potential blockbusters, but I’m working towards that.”

Hounsou acknowledged many of the roles available for Black actors simply focus on subservient roles. And, while he’s hesitant to admit the film academy only rewards Black performers when they act as maids or slaves, there is lots of proof to support the claim.

At the Oscars this year, no Black stars earned nominations. That was despite the wide representation of talent from the cast of Straight Outta Compton, Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation, and Michael B. Jordan in Creed.

Instead, the winning Black Oscar performances in the past decade went to stereotypical roles. They include Octavia Spencer’s turn in The Help and Mo’Nique’s controlling mother portrayal in Precious. And Lupita Nyong’o  – star of the upcoming Black Panther – got her break playing an enslaved woman in 12 Years a Slave.

“How many elevating stories about Black folks are out there?” Hounsou told The Guardian of the lack of Black and African movie options. “You have a slave movie, you have a comedy and that’s that. There’s nothing else to nominate. It comes back to the lack of narratives out there for African characters.”

He also addressed The Legend of Tarzan‘s setting in Africa, noting citizens have struggled to star in big-budget films.

“That’s always been the narrative of Africa,” the actor said. “Because Africans haven’t been able to use this universal instrument to tell stories like the west do. So, it’s always a struggle to find dignifying characters.”

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