Anjelika Washington of the CW show 'Stargirl' asked the producers of the show why they didn't hire a Black stunt double but they dismissed her concerns.
The talented Anjelika Washington plays Beth Chapel (Doctor Mid-Nite) on the CW show Stargirl. As is the case with any action or superhero TV show, there are a lot of stunts involved, some of which may require a stunt double. While shooting for the series, Washington, a young Black woman, was somewhat uncomfortable to find out that her stunt double was actually white. The show's producers had covered her in blackface so she could perform any stunts if need be. Taking to Instagram, the actress shared what it was like to deal with the situation and the disappointing response she received from a white producer when she addressed the issue.
Washington posted a photo of herself standing beside her stunt double. The latter was clearly in blackface. While the actress and her stunt double were grinning in the picture, the caption was a scathing criticism of tokenism and the lack of representation behind the scenes of some of our favorite TV series. She wrote, "Flashback to 2017. My fourth job as an actor, my first recurring guest star, and my first time having a stunt double—and they painted her black." Despite how nervous she felt, Washington chose to take it up with one of the producers of the show. "I was very uncomfortable (as anyone would be to meet your double in blackface) so I spoke up for myself," she explained. "I pulled one of our producers aside and asked, 'Why isn’t my stunt double Black like me? Isn’t that the point of a "double?"'"
The response she received was unsettling: "Sure. But we couldn’t find a Black stunt double in LA. Los Angeles doesn’t have many Black stunt performers. But aren’t you happy to be working? You should be thankful to be here." As anyone in her place would, Washington began to feel "powerless, voiceless, and somehow ungrateful," even though, she explained in her caption, "'grateful' is one of [her] favorite words and feelings." She shared, "I immediately started to question myself: 'Do I sound ungrateful? Am I complaining? Maybe this is just how it is?' So I said “okay.”, I sat down in my chair, shut up, and tried to think positive thoughts. (Hence my smile in this photo.) [At] this moment I felt like somehow I was in the wrong for speaking up for myself. But NO, she was wrong."
The Black actress then called out the status quo of how the industry—like many other industries in the United States—functions when it comes to diversity and inclusion. "See, there’s this oppressive thing that often happens when everyone and everything is [run] by white people on sets (and in any industry) where they try to manipulate POC [people of color] into just being GRATEFUL to be there," she affirmed. "They do this to us because they know that they *literally* run the show. They feel like a savior for giving a young Black girl a role in their show, even though most times it’s just to check a box. They often don’t check to see if we are comfortable with what they are asking of us, they often call us unprofessional or a diva for advocating for ourselves, and most times they get away with paying us way less than our costars... This is why being inclusive and hiring POC, in front of the camera and behind it, is extremely imperative."
Ultimately, Washington didn't end up needing her stunt double. Nonetheless, this was not a moment of pride for her. She wrote, "The whole time I kept telling myself, 'I have to be great. No, I have to be better than great. I have to be so amazing that they don’t need her. No one can know that I have a stunt double in blackface.' Because I already know that as a Black woman we have to be TWICE AS GREAT than a white woman to even get HALF the opportunities, HALF the pay, and HALF of the recognition." Unless things change behind the scenes, in our production rooms, no amount of Black characters on-screen will do.