The 18th annual American Black Film Festival had over 200 people lined up in New York’s Metropolitan Pavilion. BET Network’s presented “The Leading Man Panel” in support of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. The male actors discussed their journey and the images of black men in Hollywood.
The film festival was packed for the second day with mostly women waiting to hear from the male panelists. The moderator Marc Lamont Hill introduced actors Omari Hardwick, Morris Chestnut and Stephen Bishop.
Morris Chestnut alongside Omari Hardwick discuss who they are and whose they are.
The panelists discussed the questions they face as African-American male actors in Hollywood. Bishop said as an actor the question is "Who are you as a man and what you're willing to do as a character." Hill said the types of roles the actors are faced with seem to be stereotypical to the black community. The actors agreed stating the movies that glorify gang culture are the ones that make the most money in Hollywood. Hardwick said the industry can bully you and that acting is a little submissive. "As I man I've seen it. Even though it's apart of the black experience you have to say no,"said Chestnut.
Hill dug deeper and explored the gap between the older actors and the actors who are up and coming. Bishop said in the African-American community we don't reach back and help others after we have made it. He quotes lyrics from Lil' Wayne's Tie My Hands, "But they talk that freedom at us and they don't even leave a ladder, damn.
Marc Lamont Hill alongside Morris Chestnut and Omari Hardwick discuss the roles of actors in the community
The actors say they are looking for help from seasoned actors and sometimes that is the hardest thing to find. The veteran actors sometimes look at the up and coming actors and believe they are not doing enough to uplift the community. Hill said the older actors were more than just artists and they impacted the community. "We have a whole generation of elders who are becoming ancestors quickly. They weren't just celebrities they were freedom fighters," said Hill. The panelists were asked if there’s a correlation between an actor and a freedom fighter. "You can't be a great actor if you're not an activist," said Hardwick.
Bishop said he always speaks out for injustices or on racial issues. He said, “You can tell if you follow me on Twitter. I always say something.” The panelists agreed the legacy of seasoned actors must be recognized and not lost because they have broken boundaries. “We have to make sure the legacy they’ve earned for us doesn’t get lost,” said Bishop.