Hollywood’s New Dialect Coaches Address Racism

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Ms. DeCure, 54, said that while it’s normal for high-profile, white, American-born actors portraying an English or Australian character to demand accent training in their contracts, this advantage remains rare for nonwhite actors, who are more likely to be cast for physical traits. Dominican actors playing Chileans — or Jamaican actors playing Kenyans — are largely on their own.

“We celebrate it when white actors nail an accent,” she said. “We celebrate it! Until we can offer that same detail and attention to all linguistic identities, and to a myriad of accents, we’re still going to be erasing the humanity of those stories and those characters.”

Claudia de Vasco, who lives in Los Angeles, spent nearly two decades feeling periodically frustrated by the lack of opportunities for Latino accent coaches like herself. Over the course of her career, she often encountered producers who doubted her expertise on “real” American speech, despite the fact that she was born in the United States. And although she was seldom consulted for dialogue for non-Latinos, the reverse is overwhelmingly common.

“Right now, most Latino families on TV are coached by white coaches,” Ms. de Vasco said. “On the one hand, a coach should be able to coach whatever they’re skilled at. But if we’re really trying to deal with racism in this industry, then it’s fair to say that who coaches people of color plays a big part in how those people are represented.”

Ms. de Vasco, 37, said she hopes that working conditions for nonwhite coaches will catch up with the times. The market is already demanding it.

Lang Fisher, an executive producer, pointed out that weak accents can alienate an increasingly diverse and sophisticated viewership, at a time when streaming services have made programming more accessible to people around the world. The Netflix series “Never Have I Ever,” which Ms. Fisher created with Mindy Kaling, centers on a teenage daughter of South Asian immigrants, and has a sizable fan base in India.



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