I've been busy since the beginning of the year preparing for our shoot that now happens on Monday! Just three days. I've taken myself out of the producer role for a few days now as I try to adjust to the actor mentality. Naturally, drama is going to float downstream and I will catch wind of some of it (especially when the one producer left is my husband). And as we gain and lose crew...gain and lose cast...gain and lose our sanity like the flowing tides, I have to reflect on how far we've come and what we've been able to do.
We set out two and a half years ago as a small group of intelligent and incredibly capable actors who wanted a little bit more control over their careers. I had written this script for fun (writing having been a hobby of mine for the past ten years--though now I think it's taken a turn for the more serious), and I suggested we make it on the fly. I really should have known that with a group of type A personalities, nothing 'on the fly' is going to fly.
The script was about my personal struggle with being a white-skinned actor who was born in Puerto Rico, but had lived in the United States since I was 5. It was only after college when I became an actor that I began to face obstacles due to my ethnicity because well-intentioned people in the entertainment industry assumed I could only play Hispanic roles.
Why do I say 'well-intentioned'? Well, I had agents trying to find where I would best fit in. They were trying to get me work and saw a burgeoning Latin market. I had casting directors who were honestly very nice people trying to give a young actor a shot and felt that a Puerto Rican would stand a better shot of being cast in a Hispanic role. When a manager asked me if I could wear darker foundation, she was sincerely trying to sell me as best she knew how.
Unfortunately, these circumstances caused a deep well of anger to build every time walked into a waiting room for an audition and saw a sea of dark-skinned actors (most of whom weren't even Hispanic) lined up to audition for the latest thug/hooker/maid-of-the-week. It was anger at the world for what it still is, anger at the circumstances of these actors who had no power over how they're seen, anger at all the people I've ever met who have so thoughtlessly questioned me over the color of my skin because some movie told them exactly what a Hispanic person is supposed to look and act like.
So I went to a coffee shop (mostly Joe's on Columbus and 86th--I was between jobs probably) and wrote down all the ridiculous stories that I had collected having to do with my ethnicity. I wove them together into a narrative and White Alligator was born.
Fastforward nearly three years and this has now become a torch that we all carry and so many people have been recruited to carry that. It is no longer a fun project that a bunch of actors are putting together, but rather a Great Hope that if this movie hits mainstream, we can change the world. We can encourage other projects to do race-blind casting, and we can encourage a lot of people to open their horizons and see that ethnicity really is only skin-deep. And underneath this silly little layer of epidermis, everybody has the same hopes and dreams and desires.
And all the original players that are still involved and have come with us such a long way on this project now have those same dreams that this will be the project that will open the door so that they can make more significant projects that might change the world in other ways. And all of this might make us the artists that we were born to be instead of meager players with no say over the course of our lives.
But I guess that's what happens when you put a bunch of type A personalities together and give them a story. It is now a collective hope. And I am personally thrilled and inspired to be working with such brilliant, artistic and dedicated warriors.
May we someday (soon) be toasting these very words at Cannes (or some such--like the White House).