Casting Call for N.W.A. Biopic Underlines Film Industry’s Age-Old “Colorism” Problem

Casting Call for N.W.A. Biopic Underlines Film Industry's Age-Old "Colorism" Problem

There isn’t much one can really say in response to this, other than to just share it, and let you all see and be incensed yourselves (or maybe you won’t be perturbed, and will call it simply business as usual, especially if you are in the business, and have had enough first-hand experiences with situations like this, that it’s essentially the norm).

Also, these are issues we’ve discussed ad naseam on this blog over the years, that I just don’t know what more I can say at this point, that I haven’t already said on numerous occasions. So digest the information in whatever way works for you.

The post has now been deleted, as I verified, but Gawker was able to lift it before that happened, and published it on their website (which likely led to the casting agency deleting the post). 

In short, it’s a casting notice for Universal Pictures’ recently-cast N.W.A. biopic, "Straight Outta Compton," which F. Gary Gray is attached to direct, with Ice Cube producing, along with Will Packer, and which is set for release next year.

This casting call was posted yesterday by Sande Allesi Casting, an agency that has posted several casting notices for the film, on their Facebook page. As I said, it’s since been deleted, but, again, thanks to Gawker, I’m able to share it below:

SAG OR NON UNION CASTING NOTICE FOR FEMALES-ALL ETHNICITIES- from the late 80’s. Shoots on "Straight Outta Compton". Shoot date TBD. We are pulling photos for the director of featured extras. VERY IMPORTANT – You MUST live in the Los Angeles area (Orange County is fine too) to work on this show. DO NOT SUBMIT if you live out of the area. Nobody is going to be flying into LA to do extra work on this show – and don’t tell me you are willing to fly in.


A GIRLS: These are the hottest of the hottest. Models. MUST have real hair – no extensions, very classy looking, great bodies. You can be black, white, asian, hispanic, mid eastern, or mixed race too. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: subject line should read: A GIRLS

B GIRLS: These are fine girls, long natural hair, really nice bodies. Small waists, nice hips. You should be light-skinned. Beyonce is a prototype here. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: subject line should read: B GIRLS

C GIRLS: These are African American girls, medium to light skinned with a weave. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: subject line should read: C GIRLS

D GIRLS: These are African American girls. Poor, not in good shape. Medium to dark skin tone. Character types. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: subject line should read: D GIRLS

Business as usual, when it comes to how callous casting notices can be? Or is this an isolated occurrence? One also wonders whether the filmmakers behind the project were aware of this, or even OK’d it, before it went out, or if there’s generally a disconnect between the casting agencies and the directors/producers?

And yes, I think we all are aware at this point that the colorism issue isn’t just a film industry problem, but one that runs deep within our own community.

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A. McKenzie

I don’t have a problem with this casting call. I kinda see what hey ate going for and I am sure it’s not intended to be racist, although it does play to stereotypes.


To the person who said that Twinkie Byrd should cast this, I say H-LL NO!!! She will be worse that Sande Alessi when dealing with the hood. She thrives on making aspiring actors of colore miserable. Before Lupita got her Oscar, Twinkie would be the first have told her to find something else to for a living because she was too black. Other than a couple of projects most of her films are flops!


This casting call is disgusting. There is NOTHING good about this casting call. it wreaks of stereotyping and colorism. And for those of you who aren't familiar with that term "colorism" I encourage you to google it.

Andy D

From second hit on Google search: "rap video casting call" 2-chainz Music video casting call.

2 Hot young girls 25-30, curves, long hair, sexy, not too stripper looking. African American or Hispanic.

1 homeless woman 30-50, haggard skinny, tall. Can have teeth missing (Caucasian)

1 hot young guy, lean muscles well groomed, must be able too dance, African American or Hispanic

1 older man 60+ Caucasian. Hair thinning but with longer hair still. Bit sleazy look, like old Bret Michaels or Gene Simmons, with a wide arse and a bit of a beer belly.

Among a host of other ignorant stereotypes and negative cultural memetics. Seems this type of discrimination and cultural compartmentalization occurs at many levels, across genders and cultures. Racism or human nature?


I don't usually insult poster, but your response is slow, and makes no sense. They are casting and the darker you are the less attractive you are, the is what they want to appear on screen no exception. You don't get that? Really?

As for:People looked a specific way in compton,

Its been twenty years, not 2 million. There has been no evolutionary differences. People look exactly then same now as they did back then. Your entire post is special education.


I would have to agree with CJ on this issue. I did not find the casting notice racist, sexist, and colorism. The Producers of the film are trying to be accurate to what they saw around them during that time. Travon Free said it best:

"Travon Free had this to say: This is not racist at all. And I'm a Black man who was born and raised in Compton who works in Hollywood. You're making a movie about a very specific point in time where people looked a very specific way, how is that racist?"

He is right. The N.W.A "Straight Outta Compton" is a period piece film. Things looked a specific way back then. The producers are looking to be authentic to that time period, how is that racist??? People need to calm their nerves and chill out!


Wow! Yuck! Saddens me… Same ole shiiii&$?


So if she's hot AND poor, if she doesn't make the cut for A GIRL by the casting agent's standard, can she still be a D GIRL by showing them her income tax return?


Colorism, Sexism, Racism. It's business as usual. Wasn't going to watch this flick anyway. The casting call just adds another reason to stay away. Make a note of all the black folks behind this movie (and hence the casting description). Just because they have the same color skin, doesn't mean that they're your kin.


@Ladybug and Morris: You're both right. …It's too bad, however, that women of all shades are so desperate to be (or think) that they're a part of Hollywood that the CD will receive submissions for these extra roles by the thousands. The power lies with the players (e.g. the potential extras). How great would it be if every woman who read this was so disgusted and turned off that no one submitted? … Unfortunately, the type of women who will submit for these roles are the same types who submitted, back in the day, to be in rap music videos when that was all the rage.

Unfortunately, in American society, ignorance is ignorance. And we've got a lot of ignorant people who are ill-equipped to take back their power.

Christ Schnabel

Nice article


I can hear the sound of heads rolling.


I was looking for a reason to just bypass this biopic–thanks to this, I now have a LEGITIMATE one. On to the next one… SMDH…


No surprise.

I never forget an ABFF panel, that F. Gary was on, years ago.
A young lady asked him why they always cast the same looking women in music videos.
He replied…"because that's what I like."

Tyler Williams

This should be no surprise to anyone within the Black community it is not external racism because the casting directors only look for what the Directors & Producers want, this is "interracism" I am an actor, Black & male in the Bay Area scene; this is childs play compared to what I have dealth with to my face. This "caste" happens with Black male casting all of the time it is unfortunate because Black women are always seeking to affirm their natural beauty against White supremacy & imperalism that this level of degradation on public platforms that continue to devalue their beauty. This is why we need better & more sophisticated content created to tell our
stories with people within our community who do not have a reside predicated on Whiteness.


Skin color should have never been mentioned. It should not even play a role. The weave thing is ridiculous too. "A" doesn't mention skin color, but "B" through "D" does and it is offensive and ignorant. It disrespects black women, period. And this coming from someone who hates how everything is called racist and offensive these days.


LOL how is beyonce listed when she doesn't even have long natural hair??? and dark skin for D girls? Come on now. Lupita is dark skin and doesnt rep that mess of a breakdown


Wow! I hope SAG AFTRA is all over this! And last I checked B is the queen of wigs and hair weaves….
I see offensive break downs all the time but this one takes the cake!

Mark and Darla

Could someone please explain what the hell with some black mem, are suffering from "mad cow disease" of the brain when it comes "dark skin black female"

Are these black men aware what they doing to the mind of dark skin black female. Things like this can lead to young black committing suicide in drove.

Compare to this, what the republican are doing to Obama is child play.

Hope CNN and MSNBC bring this foulness to light.

What I would do to these men with witchcraft and voodoo power.


Black men in hollywood send out these types of casting calls all the time. There is a war on Black women and it is being perpetuated by Black men. The issue is not that they were asking for different types of women but the descriptions that followed are blantantly racist. I wish Black men would stop caping for each other and deal with their supremacy. I will be skipping this movie and hope Black men get their emotional isht straightened out


Tracy 'Twinkie' Bird, please call home. That's right, S&A's resident casting agent could possibly fill-in the blanks.

I am suggesting that we all can speculate on the responsibilities (and duties) of the director and production team, Twinkie has her boots on the ground. She is known for her work on Notorious, Fruitvale Station, Being Mary Jane, Black Nativity, Sparkle and many more "black" films. Therefore, as the Emotion's song suggested "Don't ask my neighbor" ask Tracy 'Twinkie' Bird, she has the real scoop.

Hey Twinkie, we need you.


Daily Show writer and African American Male Travon Free had this to say: This is not racist at all. And I'm a Black man who was born and raised in Compton who works in Hollywood. You're making a movie about a very specific point in time where people looked a very specific way, how is that racist? That's the spectrum of what people look like who live in Compton, an inner city predominately Black and hispanic environment. Are all the casting calls for the tons of period pieces Hollywood loves to churn out featuring the palest of white men and women that cast zero Black people and want the whitest blue eyed people they can find racist? No, because that's what the period looked like. So getting casting "right" on what can be deemed a more current "period piece" about the pioneers of gangster rap in 1980s Compton is far from racist.


The thing is… colorism is LEGAL in casting (caste-ing) and protected under some weird labor law exception. Only in the acting profession can people hire you according to how you look (and apparently other specific demographics as well.)

My 3 cents… they disrespect the real female fans of NWA from back in the day. Though a "rainbow" of women, most who were with them from their beginning were "straight outta Compton," poor and black. This ain't a good look. True to the colorism that exists in U.S. society and pop-culture today, but still not a good look for the former members of NWA, the director, nor the producers.


No casting notice goes out without approval from the creative team; producers and directors. More times than not they submit it to the casting agency themselves.


Business as usual. Looks like every hip-hop music video casting call I've seen. This should not be shocking… casting agencies don't beat around the bush because they want the right people sending in their headshots. If they're casting for the "D Girl" they don't want their e-mail flooded with women trying to look like Beyoncé. And the words they use may be difficult but they can't write the entire context of the role in a casting call or breakdown. Actors should know this.


But folks, in real life, isn't american society stratified like the casting call?


I m not even dark skinned and I couldn't be more offended by the last casting call specs


I m not even dark skinned and I couldn't be more offended by the last casting call.

Erik W.

I find it hard to believe, being a director myself, that the producers and director didn't look at the casting call sheet at least once.


All are responsible for this one.


Hideous. F Gary Gray needs to say something. On Twitter. Here. Somewhere. Shame on them. And as the director regardless of whether or not he knew he needs to say something. Friggin hideous.


Disgusting. NWA owes everyone an explanation for this and should fire whomever is involved.


This is terrible news, yet I'm glad to be made aware of it. But before the outraged responses follow, please consider these five points:
1. Shadism originates from plantation slavery NOT the ghetto
2. As hard as it is to erase, not every black person thinks like this – no, not even secretly
3. It is unknown who originated and who allowed the casting call in this form
4. There are those outside our community who would love this sickness to continue
5. We should have compassion for anyone raised with a warped self-image

We must eradicate self-hate. But let's do it coolly and calmly.

Douglas Gill

But – we will still flock to the theater to see the flick and then watch the BET Awards honor it.


Film industry problem? This is a Black community problem. Unfortunately a huge number of brothers would have casted it the exact same way with the exact same wording if they were in charge.


I have to say that I don't even know what to say. I'm curious to know, though, who exactly was responsible for creating these descriptions.

Bread Free

Who writes that? The darker you are the lower you are on the scale! You know some brother made these requests of the casting agency. I can't even blame white folks in this instance.

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