Did HBO edit the ‘Lovecraft Country’ cast’s skin to be darker?
Along general lines, you’d imagine being an extra in a fancy HBO show like Lovecraft Country would be a highlight in your blossoming acting career. You get to be around actors like Courtney B. Vance & Jurnee Smollett in a series produced by Jordan Peele? That’s totally going to be on your resumé.
But what if the Lovecraft Country make-up team darkened your skin for the purposes of the show? Would it go from being a cool experience to being a pretty awkward situation? That’s what happened to Kelli Amirah, an actress who’s recently gone viral for a video she posted back in February.
Reply to @selahhassni they really did me like Zoe saldana as Nina Simone #storytime #extra #backgroundactor #tvfilm #blackfishing #onset #part2
♬ original sound – KelliAmirah
Lovecraft Country follows the adventures of Tic (Jonathan Majors), a Black man on a cross-country road trip in the Jim Crow era of the 1950s. The show was created by Misha Green as an adaptation & continuation of a 2016 novel of the same name written by Matt Ruff. While Lovecraft Country isn’t quite an HBO hit in the same league as, say, Game of Thrones, it’s certainly been received positively by critics & audiences.
So, getting cast as an extra in Lovecraft Country is kind of a big deal. Kelli Amirah answered a casting call to be part of a photograph depicting one of the show’s characters – Osberta, played by Carol Sutton – when she was young. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Amirah got her own trailer and all. However, things got weird when the make-up artists started talking about Amirah’s complexion.
As she told it in her video, the Lovecraft Country make-up artists didn’t think Kelli Amirah’s skin color was dark enough to match that of Carol Sutton’s. Amirah’s facial structure was on point – probably why she got the part in the first place – but her skin was too light. So it was decided to darken her skin, not that anyone asked Amirah about it. The actress just realized what was going on as it was happening.
I’ve been getting a lot of very valid critiques for my complacency in allowing Lovecraft Country to darken my skin as a photo double for some set photography briefly featured in an episode. It’s uncomfortable but it’s not wrong. I was weak and complacent in that moment.
— Ffrenchie thee (slim) Stallion✨ (@TheKelliAmirah) March 6, 2021
On February 19th, Kelli Amirah posted a couple of videos on TikTok about her Lovecraft Country experience. A couple of weeks later, she felt compelled to post a thread on Twitter addressing people’s response to the videos. Even though Amirah had mentioned being uncomfortable throughout the make-up fiasco, some reactions to the story made her realize she’d been “weak and complacent” at the time.
The Twitter thread elaborates on the actress’s feelings about the Lovecraft Country incident beyond it being an anecdote to share on TikTok. Amirah holds herself accountable for not having spoken up when she was being put “in blackface” by the makeup artists. She goes on to say she “100% disagrees” with people who think she’s “making a big deal out of nothing.”
Kelli Amirah also used her Twitter thread to explain she felt particularly intimidated by the fact that she was sharing the make-up space with “the big guys” (the aforementioned Vance & Smollett). The actress suggested she might’ve been slightly more likely to protest if she’d been in the standard extras holding. The point being: Amirah felt small and, in her own words, she “choked”.
Press 1 for PR
Kelli Amirah’s Twitter thread was posted on March 6th. By the evening of March 7th, The Hollywood Reporter had obtained a statement from HBO regarding the Lovecraft Country situation.
“This should not have happened, and we are taking steps to ensure this doesn’t occur again in the future,” promised the premium cable outlet. None of the actors or producers involved in Lovecraft Country have expressed an opinion on the matter yet.
Worth pointing out: Kelli Amirah’s Lovecraft Country experience took place months ago, when the show was being shot. It only came up in February because the actress was responding to a TikTok prompt asking “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen as a background actor?” – a question HBO probably won’t forget soon.