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Robert Townsend on 'Hollywood Shuffle' and roles for black actors today




Key art from the 1987 film, Hollywood Shuffle.
Key art from the 1987 film, Hollywood Shuffle.
Key art from the 1987 film, Hollywood Shuffle.
(left to right) Actors Robert Townsend, Keenan Ivory Wayans and John Witherspoon from a scene in the 1987 comedy, Hollywood Shuffle.
Key art from the 1987 film, Hollywood Shuffle.
Actor, director and writer Robert Townsend.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC


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More than 25 years ago, a small, low budget movie caught the fascination of movie viewers across the country.

"Hollywood Shuffle" was the story of a young African-American actor struggling to break into the film business. His troubles lie not with his talent, but the stereotypical roles that he’s asked to play.

Robert Townsend wrote, directed and starred in the movie, and its being celebrated as part of L.A. Magazine’s look at the '80s. He stopped by the studio to talk to host Alex Cohen and she asked him about one of the legendary back stories of the movie and how he produced the film:

His motivation for producing the film stemmed from his experience as a black actor in Hollywood. Although he was educated and trained as an actor, most of the parts offered black actors at the time were for stereotypical parts like pimps, crooks or hoods: 

One of the funniest and most talked about parts of the movie was a "ad" for a Black Acting School:

We asked him what he thought about acting opportunities for actors of color these days, especially given the fact that two high profile films in the past year were "The Butler" and "12 Years a Slave." Here's what he had to say:

 
If you want to see the film for yourself tonight, click this link.
 


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