Lack of diversity is among one of the most deep-rooted and oldest problems in the film industry. While ethnic minorities constitute nearly half of the U.S. population, only 13.9% of leading roles have been played by POC actors, report Sakaguchi and San Martin in their artist statement. While this lack of representation has been the subject of several conversations in recent years, ethnic minority actors are still more often than not asked to play stereotypes – from maids and immigrants to thugs and prostitutes – and struggle to get cast in complex, layered, and authentic roles.
To create “Typecast” Sakaguchi and San Martin made portraits of POC actors embodying the stereotypical roles they often get typecast in and then made alternative portraits of them expresing their ideal roles. So far the pair has photographed about 30 actors, and hope to reach 50 before the fall. Toward this goal, Sakaguchi and San Martin set up a temporary studio at Photoville LA last week where they photographed about 15 different actors including those who identify as Asian-American, Native American, Lantinx, Persian, African-American-Latino, Hawaiian-Chinese-Spanish, among others. On a phone call with PDN, Sakaguchi said they were “thrilled” to be able to simultaneously exhibit the portraits and invite actors to participate in the project.
With the work, Sakaguchi and San Martin aim to foster conversations about how racial stereotypes visualized in film the industry shape contemporary public opinion and inform policy. In addition to the dialogue created by the series itself, Sakaguchi and San Martin aspire to arrange a platform where “actors can speak to the issues themselves.” In the near future, this could take the form a of a panel discussion where casting agents and POC actors can share perspectives and experiences.
Both Sakaguchi and San Martin where drawn to working on the series after personal experiences with the film industry. When Sakaguchi was 19 she wanted to be screenwriter. She pursued an internship at Scott Free Productions and while there wrote a feature play and short screen play with women of color in the leading roles. When San Martin was a promoting a short documentary she made about a father and daughter who have been separated for nearly two decades by the US-Mexico border wall, she was repeatedly told by actors at film festivals that they were tired of being cast as the girlfriend of a drug dealer on “Narcos.”
With a shared interest in the representation of POCs in the film industry, Skaguchi and San Martin set out to create a hard hitting series with a light hearted spin.
“Though ‘Typecast’ deals specifically within the entertainment industry, our goal is that it stimulates dialogue on implicit racism and how media representation directly correlates with one’s identity in the US.,” write Sakaguichi and San Martin. “It’s hard to overstate the importance of seeing someone who looks like you portrayed as a three-dimensional character with agency and dignity. Our project illustrates the plausibility of a more equitable future – both on-screen and in real life.”