Photo: Jessica Miglio/FOX.
Can a black actress have a white stunt double? That's what Warner Bros. and the producers of Gotham are currently apologizing for. Earlier this week, it was revealed that a white stunt double was going to be "painted down" so that she could double for a black guest star on the WB-produced show. Deadline has now confirmed the producers will be scrapping the idea.
While blackface was deemed inappropriate in the 1930's, the process of "painting down" a white stunt double so that he or she resembles an actor of a different ethnicity is still going on today. Deadline notes that actors' union SAG-AFTRA calls the practice both improper and unacceptable. Unfortunately, the union's contract language regarding who should be cast to double non-white actors is vague.
"When the stunt performer doubles for a role which is identifiable as female and/or black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific or Native American, and the race and/or sex of the double is also identifiable, stunt coordinator shall endeavor to cast qualified persons of the same sex and/or race involved…To achieve these objectives, stunt coordinator shall endeavor to identify and recruit qualified minority and female stunt persons," the contract states.
The operative words here are "shall endeavor," because they leave ambiguous the amount of effort to which a stunt coordinator must go to cast a lookalike double. Adam Moore, SAG-AFTRA’s national director of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity, tells Deadline that despite the vague language, the contract's direction is crystal clear.
"The practice known as ‘painting down’ is presumptively improper…particularly so in a production center like New York City with so many qualified stunt women of color trained for this type of work," Moore says.
Warner Bros. has since apologized for the incident in a statement which reads: "A mistake was made this week in casting a stunt woman for a guest star in a particular scene on the show. The situation has been rectified, and we regret the error.”