Michael Jai White can say whatever he wants about Hollywood. Have you seen the size of this guy? Some executive in a suit isn’t going to make him back down. White just made his directorial debut with Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown, which premiered at ActionFest last weekend.
While speaking with the press, the subject of the problematic Black Panther film came up. Djimon Hounsou tried to get the lead in the Marvel Comic movie. He’d done the voice in an animated series. White told an audience panel that he’d like to Black Panther himself. Earlier he’d told the press he knows why Hollywood won’t touch it.
“Everything’s running by fear,” White said. “They think that if you narrow the audience, like if you have an African-American it narrows the audience, which is ridiculous. Action is colorless really and it’s worldwide. Wesley Snipes wouldn’t have been so significant if he didn’t sell overseas and there’s never been an African-American movie that had action that didn’t sell overseas. There’s just so few of them. You’re going to say that Blade wasn’t successful? The Last Dragon? But it’s few and far between.”
Admittedly, Black Panther is trickier than just an African-American action hero. “I would have a couple of theories on something like that. Some people haven’t grown up with Black Panther. There’s a large group of people who are running studios where the word ‘black panther’ meant something completely different, you know. I can imagine that that would have kind of a fearful connotation to someone.”
However, the general trend of limiting African-American actors to “urban” themed movies makes White scoff. “I would resist the whole idea of when you make a movie and it involves anyone black, African-American, not for it to be a crutch. Just somebody happens to be black. It shouldn’t really make a difference but when you’re asking somebody to risk millions of dollars, they find a lot of reason why not to do something instead of making a superior movie.”
White suggests a revolution is coming, one where studios won’t have the say on what movies get made anymore. “I think the day’s going to be coming where the filmmaker doesn’t have to lean on a studio and get private financing to really hit home, to really reach the audiences out there. Studios, to me, they’re decades behind. We’ve got an African-American president but they’re scared to do a movie like this. This is ridiculous.”
Take White’s current project. The series “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” debuted online at Machinima.com with new episodes debuting every Tuesday. “In the same situation with Mortal Kombat, you just have to go out and do it yourself. Kevin Tancheroen, myself, Larnell [Stovall], we went out and shot a concept that now is a reality. We could’ve never expected a studio to come up with that because a lot of the folks that are running things are so separate from the consumer. There may be a time where there’s a new superhero that might be black that’s not in a comic that would hit just as strong because that’s just an interesting image. I think it’s a no-brainer, just people are scared.”
Take it from Michael Jai White. People want to see him kick ass, as Black Panther, Jax or otherwise.