“Supergirl ”star David Harewood clarifies he doesn't condone blackface after saying actors 'should be able to do anything'

“It is a grotesque distortion of race and should always be condemned,” the “Homeland” actor said.

David Harewood is clarifying his stance on blackface.

The English actor, who played  David Estes on Homeland and Martian Manhunter on Supergirl, told Entertainment Weekly in a statement, “I don’t support or condone Blackface. My own documentary on the subject can be found on the BBC website. It is a grotesque distortion of race and should always be condemned.”

The clarification comes after Harewood took part in a wide-ranging discussion with The Guardian about becoming the new president of the United Kingdom’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), which touched on race, prejudice, and the parameters of acting and casting. “We’re at this strange point in the profession where people go: ‘Oh, you can’t play that role because you’re not disabled, or you can’t play that because you’re not really from there,’” he told the outlet. “The name of the game is acting. Yes, we’ve got to be representative, but I do think we have to be careful.”

“That even extends to Othello in blackface,” Harewood continued in the interview. “I say, if you want to black up, have at it, man. It’d better be f---ing good, or else you’re gonna get laughed off the stage. But knock yourself out! Anybody should be able to do anything.”

<p>Kate Green/Getty</p> David Harewood

Kate Green/Getty

David Harewood

Harewood, who is Black, is no stranger to playing characters outside his own race — in 2023, he played the white conservative intellectual William F. Buckley in a stage production of Best of Enemies. “I knew the minute I walked on stage, 99% of the audience was thinking: ‘Why is he playing that?’ But by the end of it, everybody was going, ‘F--- me, that worked really well!,’” he said. “Hearing his words coming out of my mouth, many people went, ‘Why am I liking William F Buckley?’...You bring on to the stage what you are. I’m not pretending to be white; I’m bringing my full self.”

In his early career, Harewood played Romeo in an all-Black production of Romeo and Juliet, which was met with considerable vitriol. “Oh my God, I got slaughtered,” he said. “One reviewer said: ‘Apparently this man went to [RADA]. Why did they let him in? Why did they let him out?’ Another one said: ‘He doesn’t look like Romeo; he looks more like Mike Tyson.’”

He said interviewers at the time also focused on his skin color, recalling questions like, “Why are you playing Romeo? Should you be playing Romeo? Did Shakespeare write it for a black actor?”

Harewood also said that he’s faced hatred since being appointed the director of RADA. “It was all wonderful and complimentary … except the second to last one that began: ‘The true patriots of England will be turning in their grave at your appointment,’” he said. “I didn’t read on, but I could see it was full of the usual. My wife read the first line and laughed but I could see her expression change as she read on and she very quickly ripped it to shreds and threw it in the bin. I’ve already put systems in place, as I’ve had to do before, where such mail is opened by others first. That way I don’t have to deal with such garbage.”

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