In 2017, America's minority groups are finally getting more screen time, but still not nearly enough as they should be. Directors, actors, producers, and screenwriters are fighting every day for fair representation on screen. And with game changers like Jordan Peele, who broke box office history with Get Out, the satirical social thriller on American racism, ripples of progress are being made. When speaking with Dulé Hill while promoting the new sci-fi flick Sleight out April 28, (staring 20-year-old black actor Jacob Latimore), the actor shares his stance after having been in the business for over 20 years.
Hill, who went from playing Charlie on The West Wing to Gus on Psych, has yet to play a truly leading role. "If I had the opportunity to lead something, I would love to," the 41-year-old tells me over the phone. That said, he doesn't necessarily feel like the opportunity to do so is that unreachable. "I can look and see other black actors and black men leading films," he says, recognizing Hollywood's baby steps towards progress. "Now everything is nuanced." Hill's approach seems to be making the best of the hand he is dealt with.
"[Is it] possible that I couldn’t lead a show or film if I was another race? Possibly," he says. "But in life, I don’t feel those things. I deal with what is. I can’t speak about anybody else’s experience, I can only speak about my own." While Hill avoids generalizing the experience of a black actor, or any other minority in Hollywood, he admits progress is slow and incomplete.
"Has it been challenging being a black actor in this business? Yes it has," he says. "What am I gonna do about it? You gotta keep pressing forward. It is what it is, that’s my philosophy on the whole thing," Hill explains.
"Keep trying to create and find roles that are interesting to intrigue and entertain the audience, and then we’ll see where things go," he says. Really, he has no complaints about his journey thus far, which started way back in 1994 with a film Sugar Hill and later, She's All That.
"She’s All That prepared me for the experience going into the world of The West Wing... That got me to Psych," he says. "All those things along the way are building blocks to get to the role of Angelo," he says, explaining his journey to his intense, villainous Sleight character.
Rather than feeling frustrated at the state of Hollywood, Hill chooses to dedicate his emotions and energy to his craft. "To me that’s why we do it, to grow as an artist and as a being," he says. "To be able to entertain and inspire and frighten people along the way, that’s what makes it fun."
I respect Hill and his opinion, because honesty and hope are the two factors change can truly depend on.