Are More Roles for Black Actresses on the Horizon?

by Maitri Suhas

Gabrielle Union is the star of a new BET movie, Being Mary Jane, which airs July 2. The movie is being picked up as a series that will start next January. Being Mary Jane is about news anchor Mary Jane, who attempts to balance her life with work. Pretty standard stuff, except that it's a role not commonly filled by black actresses.

Union, who was passed over for the role of Olivia Pope on Scandal, which stars Kerry Washington, was optimistic even after she was turned down: "I said to myself, 'Oh my God, these roles are out there ... It showed me that you don't have to settle. Luckily, the success of her and the show bred more work. Just from the audition process, I knew that I couldn't go backward."

Kerry Washington revealed that the role of Olivia Pope was auditioned for by a large number of black actresses: "I read the Scandal script and I was like, 'Oh, I'm screwed. This is so good.' Then I got really scared, because I did feel like it was written for me; you know, in some divine way, this was mine. But there were 15 other actresses who felt the same. Shonda [Rhimes] auditioned everyone and their mother, because for African American actresses this was the glass slipper — so she let everyone try it on."

Hopefully the success of Scandal and the buzz surrounding Being Mary Jane will lead to more black actresses being featured in diverse roles in prime time.