When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong: The N.W.A. Casting Controversy

A few weeks ago it got real heated real fast when the casting call sheet for the upcoming N.W.A. film became public. People were mad. I’m sure calls were made. Hell, the original casting notice was even taken down. But was it really as shocking as it was made out to be?

Here was the original casting notice:

SAG OR NON UNION CASTING NOTICE FOR FEMALES-ALL ETHNICITIES- from the late 80’s. Shoots on “Straight Outta Compton”. Shoot date TBD. We are pulling photos for the director of featured extras. VERY IMPORTANT – You MUST live in the Los Angeles area (Orange County is fine too) to work on this show. DO NOT SUBMIT if you live out of the area. Nobody is going to be flying into LA to do extra work on this show – and don’t tell me you are willing to fly in.
SAG OR NON UNION FEMALES – PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR SPECIFIC BREAKDOWN. DO NOT EMAIL IN FOR MORE THAN ONE CATEGORY:
A GIRLS: These are the hottest of the hottest. Models. MUST have real hair – no extensions, very classy looking, great bodies. You can be black, white, asian, hispanic, mid eastern, or mixed race too. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: A GIRLS
B GIRLS: These are fine girls, long natural hair, really nice bodies. Small waists, nice hips. You should be light-skinned. Beyonce is a prototype here. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: B GIRLS
C GIRLS: These are African American girls, medium to light skinned with a weave. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: C GIRLS
D GIRLS: These are African American girls. Poor, not in good shape. Medium to dark skin tone. Character types. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: D GIRLS


So there you have it folks. You have the ‘A’ girls, who apparently are women of any race and the prettiest of the group, all the way down to the ‘D’ girls, black girls not in good shape. Well damn, Hollywood. Tell us how you really feel.

Truth be told, while this type of ad may be shocking to the public, it really shouldn’t be all that surprising. The real irony here is that this movie is about a rap group from Compton, but yet somehow black women still find themselves at the lowest end of the totem pole in the casting of this film. People shouldn’t be surprised however.  After all, when a major corporation like Sprint advertises their “Framily Plan” commercials, there’s always that one random black guy in a room full of white folks as if to say, “See, we’re not racist, we have this black guy here to prove it.” Exhibit A: 

So we really shouldn’t be surprised anymore. Until there is greater diversity in the casting industry and among the people making these hiring decisions, we still will continue to see notices like the one above and Sprint ads where one person of color suddenly makes a group diverse. Oh, and as for N.W.A. considering I saw this hat in an Urban Outfitters the other day, safe to say 25 years later, the group is more mainstream then their founding members could have probably ever imagined. 



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