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F9’s Tyrese Gibson Talks Losing Roles To Terrence Howard Over Skin Complexion, Credits Lupita Nyong’o And Viola Davis For Change

Roman Pearc (Tyrese Gibson) looks ahead in Fast 8 (2017)

Most would agree that Tyrese Gibson has had an incredibly successful career. The entertainment veteran originally started his career in the music industry before making the jump to film and television. In the years since, the actor has landed roles in some high-profile productions, yet his journey hasn’t been perfect. He’s earned plenty of roles in his time, but he’s also lost some, which Gibson partially attributes to his skin complexion. Now, Gibson is getting candid about his experiences as a dark-skinned man in Hollywood and losing out on opportunities to actors like Terrence Howard. He’s also crediting stars like Lupita Nyong’o and Viola Davis for helping to ring in a wave of change.

Actors have varied experiences in Hollywood for a myriad of reasons, ranging from their age and gender to their race and sexual orientation. Over the past few decades, Tyrese Gibson appears to have seen the ups and downs that come with being a dark-skinned actor. While speaking with The Lemonade Stand, Gibson illustrated his point by reflecting on his pre-Hollywood life and describing an experience with Terrence Howard, who he recently worked with one the upcoming film, The System:

Throughout my whole childhood, it was not cool to be dark-skinned in the hood. It was always light-skinned Black people who seemed to get all the attention, all the love and were considered pretty or handsome. Since I’ve been in Hollywood, we’ve dealt with the same thing. I just did a film with Terrence Howard and you know we’re able to joke about it now, [but] I was the star of a film. They had an idea to go with someone I won’t mention and I suggested Terrence Howard. And he thanked me for like a week straight… he was thanking me for booking him. And I was thinking to myself, ‘Terrence Howard has no idea how many roles that I was about to book and they went with him because he’s the lighter-skinned Black man with green eyes.’

What Tyrese Gibson is referring to is the top of colorism, an inherent bias against people with darker skin tones. It’s been a major topic of discussion in the entertainment industry, particularly over the past several years. And what’s particularly sad about colorism is that much of the prejudice can come from people of the same ethnic group, which seems to line up with Gibson’s own experiences.

Most would agree that there’s still plenty of work to be done when it comes to colorism, but progress is gradually being made. Tyrese Gibson explained that he sees certain A-list stars as examples of how Hollywood is starting to embrace artists with darker skin tones:

So, it’s crazy to me. I’m number one, I’m the star, I’m this blue-black -- all the things I was laughed about in the hood. And then you look at Lupita Nyong’o and you look at the Viola Davis’ of the world and there is this kind of shift that has happened.

It’s true that Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o have been shining examples of dark-skinned actors who are thriving in the Hollywood landscape. Their Oscars and massive film credits are a testament to that. But Tyrese Gibson has also served as a beacon of hope in this regard. He has, after all, had roles in some of the highest grossing franchises of all time (Transformers and Fast & Furious), and he continues to work on a consistent basis.

One can’t help but appreciate Tyrese Gibson’s candor on the subject of colorism and how it relates to Hollywood. Hopefully, discussions like these become more commonplace and ultimately serve as a small step in sparking some change in the entertainment world.

Erik Swann

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.