August 14, 2013

Hot ladies! Come audition for George Clooney’s new commercial! Unless you’re black.

George Clooney, shooting an earlier spot for Nespresso
A-list actor and collector of hot blond ladies George Clooney is prepping to film two new Nespresso commercials. I know this because a source has leaked me the casting breakdown for said Nespresso spots. Breakdowns are sort of like targeted cattle calls; they describe the types of actors a commercial producer is seeking, and list the dates for auditions and callbacks.

Here’s the breakdown for Clooney’s upcoming spots, set to shoot next month:

2 Gorgeous Heroines (1 for each spot) - ''Rooftop'' & ''Changing Room'' - Female / 28-38 / Caucasian, Ethnically Ambiguous, Hispanic Intelligent, theatrical actresses to carry comedic spot opposite George Clooney. Absolute stunners!! Strong theatrical credits. Types: Cate Blanchette [sic], Scarlet Johannson [sic], Olivia Munn, Olivia Wilde, Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz. Wardrobe: Upscale business, ie. Armani skirt and blouse.

So, let’s dig a little deeper, here: Yep, looks like Caucasians, Hispanics and “ethnically ambiguous” ladies are all welcome, and also, African Amer...

Oh wait. No. Scratch that last thing, there. Apparently, if you’re a coffee-drinking Clooney fan who happens to enjoy acting while black, too bad for you. Asian gorgeous heroines also are apparently out of luck this time around. Unless their Asian-ness is also ambiguous.

When I first saw this casting notice and its apparently obvious racial exclusivity, I thought, gee, maybe I’m missing something. Maybe the Nespresso people, you know, already have a black gorgeous heroine back in hair and makeup, and now they’re just looking for vaguely toasty brown person to round things out. 

Or maybe the casting director who crafted this breakdown happened to lose all the power in her laptop just as she was about to type “African American.”

So I called up a casting director friend of mine, hoping to get her help in offering the Nespresso folks the benefit of the doubt.

It didn’t really work out that way.

“That’s casting,” Bonnie Gillespie told me instead. “There is no such thing as equal opportunity in casting ... It SUCKS, and many, many people have failed in bringing lawsuits against companies for putting out racist or sexist or ageist or other -ist breakdowns. 

“But how can you require a commercial product who knows its buyer to use Affirmative Action and have all ethnicities as a part of its commercial? They've done the research, they know their buyer responds to X, so they put out a breakdown asking for X.”

To be fair, this Nespresso commercial is not slated to run in the United States. But I have heard tell of black people living outside of North America–people who might like to buy a teardrop shaped coffee machine that goes for about $129.99.

But just to be sure I wasn’t overreacting about this, I also roped in another friend of mine, an African-American actress with plenty of theater and commercial experience.

I’ll let her take it from here.

“Yeah,” she says, “I see notices like this all the time. ... A lot of times, big brands like this will have multiple spots for different markets (which can be offensive in its own right, like how they choose to market to an ‘urban’ demo. But, hey, at least they're throwing work our way, right?). So commercial casting calls, I kind of understand, because they're hitting different markets; for instance, some call for only Asians and they're not Asian companies or anything.

“The ones that have always bothered me are the ones for film, TV and Web productions that will literally list every race and ethnicity, right down to Native American or Pacific Islander except black. Like, they really have no idea who they want but they know they don't want a black person. If you're going to be so sweeping and general about who you're calling in, why not just say ‘all ethnicities’ like most people do? How many black actors do you really think are going to show up? I can tell you right now, not that many. 

“It just seems so unabashedly racist.”

So which lightly caramelized-to-cream-colored gorgeous heroine will end up in a Nespresso spot with Clooney? That's being determined as I write this; according to the breakdown, the first round of auditions are happening today and tomorrow here in Los Angeles.

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  1. I have a semi comment and a semi rant against the machine:

    I think an important follow up to this observation Madam Fatale is recognizing *why* there is such racism in casting calls.

    Would a woman in her 30s be less prone to purchase a coffee machine if it was being marketed with Black People? Marketing usually reflects the mentality of the general society; so it isn't the casting call that is offensive, it is Us.

    Especially when it comes to attractiveness. Black women have gotten the shaft in that perception. The fairest of them all is perceived to be Caucasian in most markets. Maybe Latin American. Asian is pushing it. Black, hell no. Nose is too wide, etc.

    Would it be believable that George Clooney - the handsomest of them all, whose love life is very well documented to consist solely of Caucasian women, both off screen and on (save for Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight) - would be attracted to a black woman?
    Also, think of the replacement factor. Nespresso picked George Clooney for a reason, he is incredibly popular with the women, women of a certain age/generation who are big fans of the Cloon. Probably let's say 27 to 55 of age. And most of this demographic is white - at least, I assume. This is where I am not You because I don't do .... what, facts? Moving on, these women want to see Clooney's chick and then replace that woman with themselves right? It is a fantasy. Cloonsey is their fantasy boyfriend. They want a version of themselves on the screen with The Movie Star. That fantasy becomes easier if the casting is closer to the target demographic: "Female / 28-38 / Caucasian, Ethnically Ambiguous […]". That fantasy becomes less fantastical when actress/model cast looks completely different from you, ie: ugly, and belongs to a lower caste in society.

    Ew! Fantasy ruined!

    I remember a study once that said that most people would rather lose an arm than be black.

    Marketing wise, why would nespresso hire a black woman in their ad when it defeats the purpose? Should Nespresso step up and become part civil activist and part Coffee company and force feed the nations of the world the truth? Are there any companies out there who actually do this on a regular basis and has it worked out for them or have they seen declining sales?

    I think change is slow, and there has been a lot, but when it comes to racism, it is a very small light at the end of a very long tunnel.


    Tear drop shaped...

  2. "so it isn't the casting call that is offensive, it is Us"

    Sooooo, Nespresso gets a pass because their customers are bigots? Right.

  3. No, but it is an easy target.