HELLO AMERICA!—Many-times honored for his work in films and television, Louis Gossett, Jr. speaks out about an industry he has loved most of his life and career. The actor made his debut on Broadway in Lorraine Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun” in 1959, since that time, there have been numerous other awards bestowed on Gossett.
MSJ: Today, there are far more people of color presented and employed in almost every category in film, television and, yes, the theatre. Has this been a good thing in your opinion?
LG: Of course, the idea of employment is great, but unfortunately many of the scripts are still layered with stereotyped story slants and characters. And unfortunately many of those hired still represent the old thinking. Many of the commercials still have the overweight man or woman of color with an “attitude” or sound like they are still in a cotton field during the time of slavery.
MSJ: If so, why don’t those selected for those jobs protest this kind of thing?
LG: Because they are afraid to show hostility for fear of not getting the job. That’s the bottom line. And it’s always been that way. Unfortunately, far too many of these actors really don’t give a damn as long as they get the check they have always dreamed of getting. Sadly, the younger people of color are guilty of this because they have no idea what it took for us to even step in front of a camera.
MSJ: What do you think Tyler Perry is contributing in a positive sense?
LG: Jobs! For the most part that is it. Many of the characters and story lines are about one step up from “Amos ‘n’ Andy.” Of course, that’s his right, but that doesn’t mean that we should feel we should support and award shows he produces in any way. His success is based on the idea that Hollywood feels comfortable with these stories and characters he projects out there. Then there are millions of black people who are programmed to accept and identify with many of these characters they see in films and television — and when they are produced, written and promoted by people of color they rationalize and stand in line to purchase a ticket.
MSJ: Who are the filmmakers who deserve support and respect based on what they present to the public?
LG:HalleBerry, Denzel Washington, Will Smith and Cuba Gooding has his moments. I’m talking about people who are darn good actors who project class and dignity no matter what kind of “character” they are playing. There are too many “street” type actors with no class before or behind the camera. And it shows in the way they speak and carry themselves before the public. I grew up watching Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Cagney. Watching them on screen was one thing but when they made public appearances, they were articulate, fully prepared to represent our industry. It’s not that way today.
MSJ: I suppose you feel the same way about today’s music?
LG: What music? Rap is not music really, just words with repetitive acoustic sounds which desecrates anything and everything about life itself. I feel lucky to have heard Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and even Bing. Their music was easy to remember; you were inspired and the bad or unfortunate things in your life didn’t dominate your day or night. It was a different world and I miss it.
MSJ: You’ve been around a long time, what do you miss the most?
LG: People being kind to each other! I don’t see too much of that today. People are too obsessed with money or having power. They are all front and no back — possibly, that has something to do with the politics that preys on everything concerning our life.
MSJ: I’ve known you for so many years and I’ve seen you evolve as an actor as well as a man. Who are you today?
LG: Just a guy who hungers for peace not only for myself, but millions of other people who have known very little except war and a continual personal battle to survive. I continue to ask “Where is the Love?”
By Michael St. John