Anjelikaw Washington, who stars on the CW’s Stargirl, is opening up about a paint-down incident on another show three years ago – and how she spoke up when a white stunt woman in dark makeup and a black wig was hired to double for her.
“Flashback to 2017,” she posted on Instagram. “My 4th job as an actor, my first recurring guest star, and my first time having a stunt double – and they painted her black.” Washington didn’t identify the show, and says that her black-faced stunt double was never used on the show because she’d “kicked ass” in her own action scenes.
Once commonplace in the industry, paint-downs are rare today. In 2014, Warner Bros. apologized and canceled plans to paint-down a white stunt woman to double for a black actress on its hit Fox show Gotham after receiving inquiries from Deadline.
SAG-AFTRA frowns on the practice and wants it to end. “We know that there’s been people putting on blackface,” SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said in a March 2019 podcast. “We’re still seeing some of that.” In 2018, the union said that “there are continuing concerns about the troubling practice.”
“I was very uncomfortable – as anyone would be to meet your double in blackface – so I spoke up for myself,” Washington wrote in her post, which included a photo of herself smiling awkwardly next to her black-faced stunt double. “I pulled one of our producers aside and asked ‘Why isn’t my stunt double black like me? Isn’t that the point of a double?’ She responded ‘Sure. But we couldn’t find a black stunt double in LA. Los Angeles doesn’t have many black stunt performers. But aren’t you happy to be working? You should be thankful to be here.’
“I immediately started to question myself: “Do I sound ungrateful? Am I complaining? Maybe this is just how it is?” So I said “okay.”, I sat down in my chair, shut up, and tried to think positive thoughts. (Hence my smile in this photo) But really, I felt powerless, voiceless, and somehow ungrateful…. Anyone who knows me knows that “grateful” is one of my favorite words and feelings. So in this moment I felt like somehow I was in the wrong for speaking up for myself. But NO, she was wrong.”
“See, there’s this oppressive thing that often happens when everyone and everything are run by white people on sets (and in any industry) where they try to manipulate people of color into just being GRATEFUL to be there,” she wrote. “They do this to us because they know that they literally run the show. They feel like a savior for giving a young black girl a role in their show, even though most times it’s just to check a box. They often don’t check to see if we are comfortable with what they are asking of us; they often call us unprofessional or a diva for advocating for ourselves, and most times they get away with paying us way less than our costars. This is why being inclusive and hiring POC in front of the camera and behind it, is extremely imperative.”
“Luckily for me, I kicked ass in my action scenes and my stunt double wasn’t even used. But the thing is, the whole time I kept telling myself ‘I have to be great. No, I have to be better than great. I have to be so amazing that they don’t need her. No one can know that I have a stunt double in blackface.’”