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Samuel L. Jackson Explains Black British Actors Comments: ‘I Didn’t Say They Were Taking Anything’

Variety logo Variety 3/9/2017 Will Thorne
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After he drew controversy for criticizing the casting of black British actors in American films on Monday,Samuel L. Jackson clarified his thoughts on the matter.

Jackson denied having implied that black British actors are stealing African-Americans’ roles, while also pointing out that opportunities for African-American actors to work in the U.K. are far fewer than the other way around.

“I didn’t say they were taking anything,” Jackson told Variety at the “Kong:Skull Island” premiere on Wednesday night at the Dolby Theatre. “I said it was an interesting aspect of what happens in Hollywood. There are times, like in a movie like ‘Get Out,’ that Daniel (Kaluuya) is in a situation that’s indicative of young Americans dating people outside their race.”

Jackson added, “I’ve known Daniel for a very long time. He’s a great young actor, a great young writer, and all the British actors that have come here have all done great jobs and have a great facility for adapting to the language and to the cultural mores,” Jackson continued. “But we don’t get to do that that often. They don’t ask us to come over and adapt to the British accent. And most times when we come over we got a work visa and somebody calls me two days before and tells me, ‘You know you gotta go home in two days?'”

In his New York radio station Hot 97, Jackson referred to Jordan Peele’s new movie “Get Out,” which has black British actor Daniel Kaluuya playing the central role, and wondered, “What would a brother from America have made of that role?”

Jackson also mentioned Ava DuVernay’s 2013 movie “Selma,” and the idea that an African-American actor would have brought a different insight into the life of Martin Luther King Jr., who was played by British actor David Oyelowo.

But on Wednesday, Jackson emphasized that he has always enjoyed working with black British actors, and hopes more of them get the chance to work in the U.S.

“I think it’s wonderful that they do come here,” he said. “I understand that it’s a great opportunity to further their careers, and to hopefully go home and create opportunities for other young actors that are over there, and encourage them to come over and find the road to success. I look forward to working with the majority of U.K. actors that I’ve worked with, and I look forward to working with more,” Jackson said.

While walking near the the giant shadow of a life-sized King Kong on the red carpet, the legendary actor also expanded on his role in “Kong: Skull Island,” and how throughout his career, he has become one of the most quotable actors in Hollywood.

“I have a habit of getting t-shirt lines,” he said. “I think “B—, please!” will be the one to catch on from this one.”

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