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Comedian/actress Kim Wayans is all smiles as she basks in the glow of her first dramatic role in the new film Pariah but she still has to pause and ponder when asked what role in film she wished she’d had the chance to portray in the past few years. After a few minutes of thought, she shakes her head and asks, “What have we had?’’
Wayans’s not-so-shocking response is a fitting comment on the dearth of opportunities offered African-American actresses in film, television, and the media generally. In a year that has seen black women highlighted and showcased as the “help’’ or as disgruntled ex-wives ready to fistfight the next woman in a heartbeat, many in film and television continue to pose the question: will more selective, diverse, and fully developed roles ever be a reality for women of color?
“I didn’t think we’d still be having this same conversation so many years later,’’ says Wayans, who gained fame with her brothers on the comedy variety show In Living Color. “The 90s were so bright and promising for people of color in Hollywood, and I for one thought it would only get better with the chance for me and other black actresses to portray any number of characters and in all types of stories.’’