Last night was full of tests for Law and Order Special Victim’s Unit. The series’ season premier was the first without Christopher Meloni, the actor who played Detective Elliot Stabler for 270 episodes since the series premier in 1999. After NBC and Meloni failed to reach a contract agreement, it was announced the actor would be leaving the show and so for many fans the questions loomed: how would the show go on without him? How would Mariska Hargitay live without him? How would we all live without their sometimish sexual tension slash sibling like bond?
Well those questions remain unanswered after the first episode but a new one has arisen following the performance of Anika Rose as a hotel maid who reports being raped by an Italian diplomat in SVU’s take on the Dominique Strauss Kahn saga. While I thought Rose’s performance was a moving one- throughout the twitterverse many seemed to take issue with her portrayal of a Sudanese refugee claiming that her accent was not authentic. Still, it should be pointed out that acting is the craft of emulating a character. Accents are part of that job and are often criticized for authenticity- not only in actors of color. Just ask Anne Hathaway about the reviews for “One Day.”
That said, the case of “twitter protests too much” did bring up an interesting question one asked throughout the night: why don’t networks use African actresses to portray African characters? While the diasporas are certainly in and of itself diverse, finding rising African actresses isn’t impossible. There’s Uche Jombo, Mona Lisa Chinda, Chika Ike, Genevieve Nnaji, Oge Okoye, and Jackie Appiah just to name a few.
On the other hand one could argue that even then critics would argue that the role of a Sudanese hotel maid required a Sudanese actress, not just an African one. Remember the days when the struggle was just to get black women time on the small screen?
What did you think of Anika Rose’ performance on last night’s SVU season premier? Is there a need to see more African actresses playing roles scripted as such or are we just never satisfied? Let’s discuss!