Baz Luhrmann’s Netflix series, “The Get Down” features Justice Smith among its list of breakout stars. In a new Vulture interview the 21 year old actor details the highs and lows of his experience on the show and his career as a bi-racial actor.
The Bi-Racial Acting Struggle
Smith’s mother is white and his father is black. Being bi-racial is not easy in Hollywood, especially when people are constantly trying to categorize you. He’s been told he’s not black enough for the “black” roles and not white enough for the “white” roles. In the acting world every little thing about is always being judged, even your characteristics. For example, some might say he dances well because of his black side and he speaks well because of his white side. This frame of mind is archaic and ignorant. Obviously, Smith exclaims that “That’s how I was raised. That’s how my environment was. There are no biological characteristics that comes with race. We’re not a monolith.”
His Role on The Get Down
Smith says that in any other decade of cinema he probably wouldn’t be blessed to be able to take on such a diverse role. His character on The Get Down, Zeke, is a half Puerto Rican, half black poet-turned-rapper growing up in the South Bronx in the 1970s. However the role has come with its own challenges. Smith said that he would maintain Zeke’s dialect for 16-hour days on set, worrying that to not do so wouldn’t be genuine. “I didn’t know that that actually is a burden on your soul because when you’re acting like someone else, you push yourself to the side. It’s basically a form of repression and it builds up. You’re just like, ‘I want to come out but I can’t.’ It’s awful and then there were days I would just go home and bawl because — I’m flustered even talking about it — the lines get blurred and you’re like, What is me and what is the character? Am I really like this or is that just him?”