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Ethiopian-Irish Actress Ruth Negga Believes Her Heritage Is Negatively Affecting Her Career

Ethiopian-Irish Actress Ruth Negga Believes Her Heritage Is Negatively Affecting Her Career

The Irish Sun is reporting that Ethiopian-Irish actress Ruth Negga (Misfits, Love/Hate) believes her heritage has prevented her from success in Hollywood.

Why does Negga feel this way?  Here’s what The Irish Sun is reporting:

Ruth said: “I’ve never had actual feedback that this was the reason I didn’t get a part, no-one’s ever said to my face that was the reason. But I’m sure it’s been the case.

“I’ve gone into auditions and I think they have an assumption about me when they see my photo and then I open my mouth and they say, ‘Where exactly are you from? And you were born in Ethiopia? But you’re Irish, but you also kind of sound English. That’s really strange.’”

She added: “They want to put you in a box in LA, that’s how they tend to do it there, so if you don’t fit in that box, it makes it more difficult.”

I’ll leave it to S&A readers to decipher that reasoning.

In addition to the film and TV roles she’s already known for, Negga is scheduled to appear next in the Jimi Hendrix biopic, All Is By My Side, and the historical epic Twelve Years A Slave with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt.

So she’s definitely working.  But I guess what Negga is saying is that opportunities here in the U.S. are not as common as they are back home.

Is this an argument which warrants further conversation?  Or is this Ruth Negga’s wake-up call on being an actor-of-color in America?

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But she doesn't even look African! She looks like she's from Iran.


"what's really the dialogue here and what makes it news of any sort?" Hello! It's interesting to note that two of the most poignant comments were the shortest and received no replies. Here's the second–>ADAM SCOTT THOMPSON | SEPTEMBER 3, 2012 6:22 said: "As Kanye put it, even if you in a Benz you still a "Negga.". That's true! Hollywood does not need black folks and the white audience is indifferent to black affairs. Now throw that into the pot of why "Won't Back Down" was a total bust. This has little to nothing to do with talent, yet everything to do with the color of the actor's skin. As soon as we understand and accept those cold hard facts, is the day we'll have more productive conversations.

Katie G

As a casting producer, I completely disagree with this actress' belief that her heritage is negatively affecting her career. Maybe she's not getting certain roles because her range of talent is limited or her American accent doesn't pass as authentic. She needs to accept that she's not going to be hand-delivered Oscar-worthy roles here in The States just because she's a big fish in the Irish pond. There are PLENTY of incredibly talented African American actresses in Hollywood waiting for their big break and she needs to take a number and get in line.




There's a lot of truth to what she's saying but I am positive that saying it won't help her situation at all. Executives don't like to see actors (particularly unknown ones) complaining, and it will probably impact her negatively in the future. There's never been a case where an actress has complained about not getting parts because of her weight/age/race/looks-in-general and then someone said "By God! You're right! Cast her immediately!" It's never changed things for the person saying that.


There are more black actresses than there will ever be roles for black actresses. That's not a good thing at all, but even Viola Davis can barely get a lead role.


"Is this an argument which warrants further conversation? Or is this Ruth Negga's wake-up call on being an actor-of-color in America?"

i find it strange that these are presented as mutually exclusive questions. why do people think that just becomes something, and its often a race thing because people never say oh just forget the holocaust, has been going on for a long time that it warrants no deeper examination? people have been killing people since before we were even people really, and yet we still spend googobs of money trying to figure out why that is. make it race in the united states and all of a sudden everyone wants you to just forget about it, just accept it because all that stuff has been happening "forever"; why is something that still so strongly affects so many people considered irrelevant for the same reasons other things are considered almost innately relevant (ie: the amount of time its been happening, how many people it affects)?

forever seems to deal with the past or future rather than the present, though you must travel through this moment to reach either, and people who represent the "middle", which are mostly economically and socially cozy white people with a few token poc, are still unwilling to give up the comfort of their "color-blind post-racial" mindset to accept that this perspective is fundamentally an act of denying reality and therefore destructive. not to mention that its demeaning and dehumanizing to those affected most by it, people who don't fit into, or are not allowed into, that comfortable box

Facts of life

I get what she's sayin. They don't want to hear you talk about being mixed race or come from different countries. They want you to say you Black and hear you talk in Black American slang. She's not complaining just telling it like it is. Reading on she talks about being grateful for current job opportunities.


Sucks when actors don't count their loses not blessing. Dozens of talented black actresses can't make it into project that can showcase their talent because of looks, heritage and what have you. Ruth should be grateful she's not in that category and stop complaining. She wants to be a big star or an actor? She is working damn it.


We must be proud to be black and continue to fight for equality, we can't change nothing about our identity, we have to give our best, Hollywood is difficult for women, specially for black women.
We need to keep the faith and a change gonna come. Everything is possible.


boo hoo mixed race actress doesnt get as much work as her white counterparts arent we bored of the mulatto blues? Black actresses from ANYWHERE around the world are literally black listed from hollywood roles but of course this is so old noone cares anymore.


Welcome to the cultural schizophrenia of the United States… and… Hollyweird.


I feel for her. She could have easily changed her name and hid her heritage. But she's proud of who she is. Now, she's learning a hard lesson about the industry. One possible consolation may be that she's probably the most famous mainstream Ethiopian actress working right now.


America – black skin – limited opportunities? Sounds about right.


"the historical epic Twelve Years A Slave with Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt"

This is more of a pet peeve than a legitimate complaint but considering Chiwetel Ejiofor is the lead of the movie and actually shares scenes with Ms Negga I am surprised his name was excluded. I would have expected such exclusion from a more mainstream website that was interested in star power and, perhaps, catered more to white viewers. Didn't expect it though from this site.


you're working. hysh!


GIVE ME A BREAK! I could say the same thing. I am from and live in New Orleans where Twelve Years a Slave was shot and they didn't even audition anyone FROM New Orleans for this role! Most of this story took place here in NO. I have been in this business for 19 years starting in NY, Los Angeles and now back in my hometown and the films coming here don't even give local actors these opportunities. I am a fair skin black actress that most people in Hollywood (WHITE AND MALE) don't recognize as being really african american. Her feelings are valid but passe and seriously? You should have known this before you came to the US or LA LA LAND.
old news.zzzzzzz


I'm a fan. Enjoyed her in 'Misfits,' and there's a video floating around the web of her reading a Shakespearean sonnet – it'll surely blow your mind. Like others here, I'd love to hire her one day.


I remember reading comments from Naomi Watts being very frustrated with her career and how her buddy Nichole Kidman advised her to just hang in there. She isn't the only one I am sure that believes that something other than talent is holding them back. The truth is she is right and she is wrong. It is a thing that is just short of typcasting and it is called a "quality"; something that directors think of when they think of a particular role and who and why that person would be good for it. Again it is good advise, just hang in there till they remember you.


Most of the actors we fight for on this sight i.e. Viola Davis have extensive resumes showing their acting talents. When I see her in action, I can begin to determine what may be the cause for this. At the end of the day, it shouldn't matter where she's from. Her job is to act. If she does that well, that is all that should matter. In an ideal world, that would be all that mattered.


Her career seems to be going swimmingly. She's working with acclaimed filmmakers. I think it'd be interesting to hear what she really means. On the surface this seems weak.


I would need more information to comment with any measure of insight. For example, are you auditioning with your accent or the accent of your characters? I would venture to guess, however, her "look" has more to do with whatever she feels she's missing out on. She reminds me of a screen siren from early Hollywood–akin to Betty Davis. It's very very distinctive, which isn't a bad thing at all, it just means what's for you is truly for you, and what's not for you; you have to let go of with as much grace as you can muster.


She seems to be doing supremely well, working on high-profile projects by respected filmmakers. The life of an actor is tough, we recognize this. So what's really the dialogue here and what makes it news of any sort?


She is probably coming into the auditions for a black female roles, trying to portray some biracial "whatever" and they are not trying to have that.


Where exactly are you from?

God I hate that question , this right here falls into the "microaggression" category. As a person with a dual background myself I truly hate people who interrogate my heritage; only to dispute it. GRRRR!!! I am no national geographic material.They never actually wanna know , they just want to confirm their "suspicions" .

In the EU is you are half black/ half Belgium , you basically have to pretend your white side is French instead of Belgian.And work on a Parisian accent to create a perfect illusion.

If you are half black half Irish , settle with British .You'll have less trouble.

If you are half Dutch half black , pretend you are half German.Plus both languages are mutually intelligible, it works lol!

If you are all sorts of blacks in one , and your last name doesn't fully reveal your lineage.I think you are in trouble.

Lastly if you are quadrilingual ( like me ) , pretend you are monolingual; you'll never have to explain why you speak so many languages and write them as well.


She's an amazing actress. She was awesome in the Samaritan opposite Samuel Jackson. I'm glad she kept it real. I would think that she knows more about being discriminated against than the people who refuse to believe its a factor. Lord knows I've been a victim of it many times myself. Maybe if more people stop playing the ostrich game and speak up like she did things would change a little. I hope to be able to hire her one day. Keep your head up Mrs. Negga.


I loved Ruth on "Misfits" and found her look to be strikingly uncommon and beautiful. I feel as though she is right. I recently had a conversation with another actor about this very subject. Here in LA (or the U.S. in general) casting officies tends to focus on race so much, as in the UK you will see Luther or Misfits and though they may not have many black people on the show, the roles given to them are not specifically for a "black guy, or girl", and I feel like that makes the difference. Its strongly based on talent then look in the UK, but quite the opposite here in America. Thats what makes overseas actors seem to have so much more depth than what I feel America is producing.
HOWEVER, Ruth just stay the course, and be the difference. I know I am.

Adam Scott Thompson

As Kanye put it, even if you in a Benz you still a "Negga."


Yes, but more often than not, actors of color are often judged on that even more definitively, sometimes before they even get the look-see, and we know it. The darker the natural color, the more "baggage" it may be assumed the actor in question is carrying. And then, of course, there is the inevitable will-white-folks-believe-it-or-go-to-see-it line of reasoning when it comes to potential box office. Let's not be ostriches about this. Heads up!


I don't feel that it's about Racism at all, it's that they can't get a finger on her correct culture and that's a good thing but Hollywood execs can't think out of the box and lack far too little imagination, so when you give them too much to figure out they can't handle it. She might have to play some tricks and declare one place to make it easy, I know that sound ugly but she's very talented and she should be working more!!!


I think this was her wake-up call on dealing with Hollywood. I don't think it's a matter of her "getting over herself". That so denies what artists of color go through on a daily basis in Hollywood. Be they Black, White, Red or Yellow.

Matthew Hahn

All actors are judged by their appearance and voice. Get over yourself.

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