Film Courage: Is there a mistake you made early on in your career that you said “Never again.” And [the mistake] is not so much working with someone or whatever. It’s something either you did or something you didn’t pick up on about a situation that cost you? And you said “I will never…”
Bill Duke, Actor/Filmmaker/Author: I was offered a role…I’m not going to tell you the role. It was a TV show. But I was paid to play this role that I did not like and I think it’s an embarrassing role of a pimp. But I had been trying to get a job in TV for like three years and couldn’t get anything. Rejection…rejection…rejection.
So I find this role, I audition and I get this role and friends of mine saw the script and they said “Don’t do it.” Totally broke, rent was due…maybe it will give me something? I was on a hit TV show, too. I did it. I did it. When I saw the footage I said “Oh my God! I hope nobody sees this.” And maybe five to seven years later when I had some real money I called the network and tried to buy…[laughs] I tried to buy the footage back that I was in, tried to buy the episode and I said I would pay whatever. They wouldn’t sell it to me. That’s how ashamed I was. But…I needed the money. I needed the job…haven’t done it since then. But I understand see before I used to put down the Stepin Fetchit, I used to put down the people that came before me and smiled and laughed and danced and acted like you know happy black people and the maids and butlers and stuff and “They are shaming their race and…” No, no, no. They took the jobs that were offered to them at that time to do the best that they could with what they had and my respect for them changed totally because I was faced with the same thing. And I could understand why they did what they did. But I was fortunate enough to not have to do it again. I haven’t had to do it since.
I still get these opportunities but to turn down something that the gig can make you a lot of money, a lot of people would see but it’s totally against everything you stand for as an actor and artist and everything.
I mean certain people put down certain people because of what they did in a show or whatever and I don’t do that anymore. I just say you don’t know their circumstances. If you’ve got a sick baby at home, you’ve got a sick baby at home. You’ve got to take care of your bills. I don’t know his business.
I am not fond of reality TV though, I’m not going to lie.
I was out of the country and I was asked questions about my culture based on reality TV and I was saying
“No, that’s not the way every black person in the world…not every black person’s woman is dragged across the floor by their hair. Not every black man wears his pants below his butt line.”
[Imitates the questioner] “We thought all blacks…?”
“Because we were looking at your pants and we were wondering why you didn’t have your pants..?”
Film Courage: Was this in Belgium when you saw the one guy in the restaurant [referring to a story he told earlier]? Nothing against Belgium but I was just wondering if it was the same trip?
Bill: This was when I was in China years ago. I was in China. I was in Japan and in Tokyo and they just said there was something wrong with me because I didn’t look like the regular black people.
And he said “You speak good, too?”
Film Courage: Did they know your work?
Bill: Some of them did. But at that time not a lot of them. They were just “Oh, you are here filming? Good. Good. I have some questions for you.”
I was in shock but not in a way because I know the stuff that gets to them that’s how they see us as a culture and I was just amazed by how many people thought of us that way. But media is very powerful. And that’s…whatever they see, that’s what you are.
Question For The Viewers: Are there any mistakes that you made early in your career where you said never again?
Check out more about CREATED EQUAL here:
MORE VIDEOS WITH BILL DUKE
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Mandao (Man-Day-Oh) of the Dead is about Jay Mandao and his nephew-in-law Jackson who use astral projection to reverse a ghost’s death on Halloween.
This astral comedy is the second feature film Written and Directed by Scott Dunn and produced by Gina Gomez Dunn. It was filmed in 10 days with a production budget of just $13k. The duo’s first feature film, Schlep won Best Comedy/Dramedy at the Hollywood Boulevard Festival and was nominated in 5 different categories at the FirstGlance Film Festival. Schlep is also available on Amazon. Mandao of the Dead will be released on iTunes and DVD/Blu-ray in January 2019.