Overall, you’d imagine being an extra on a fancy HBO show Lovecraft Land would be a highlight in your thriving acting career. Do you get close to actors like Courtney B. Vance & Jurnee Smollett in a series produced by Jordan Peele? That is all on your resume.
But what if the Lovecraft Land makeup team darkened your skin for the purposes of the show? Would it turn a cool experience into a pretty awkward situation? That’s what happened to Kelli Amirah, an actress who recently went viral for a video she posted in February.
Lovecraft Land follows the adventures of Tic (Jonathan Majors), a black man on a cross-country road trip in the 1950s Jim Crow era. The show was created by Misha Green as an adaptation and continuation of a 2016 novel of the same name written by Matt Ruff. While Lovecraft Land isn’t quite a HBO hit in the same league as, say, Game of Thrones, it has certainly been positively received by critics and audiences.
So as an extra in Lovecraft Land is quite a problem. Kelli Amirah answered a casting call to be part of a photo of one of the show’s characters – Osberta, played by Carol Sutton – when she was young. Sounds pretty easy, right? Amirah has her own trailer and all. However, things got weird when the makeup artists started talking about Amirah’s skin tone.
As she put it in her video, the Lovecraft Land makeup artists didn’t think Kelli Amirah’s skin tone was dark enough to match Carol Sutton’s. Amirah’s facial texture was good – probably why she got the part in the first place – but her skin was too light. So it was decided to darken her skin, not that anyone asked Amirah about it. The actress just realized what was going on while it was happening.
I’ve gotten a lot of very valid criticism for my complacency by allowing Lovecraft Country to darken my skin as a double shot for some set photography that was featured briefly in an episode. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s not wrong. I was weak and complacent at the time.
– Ffrenchie tea (slim) Stallion✨ (@TheKelliAmirah) March 6, 2021
On February 19, Kelli Amirah posted a few videos about her on TikTok Lovecraft Land experience. A few weeks later, she felt compelled to post a thread on Twitter covering people’s reactions to the videos. Although Amirah had said she was uncomfortable during the makeup fiasco, some of the reactions to the story made her realize that she had been “ weak and complacent ” at the time.
The Twitter thread takes a closer look at the actress’s feelings about the Lovecraft Land incident beyond being an anecdote to share on TikTok. Amirah holds herself responsible for not speaking out when the makeup artists put her “in blackface.” She goes on to say that she “disagrees 100%” with people who think she is “making a big deal out of nothing.”
Kelli Amirah also used her Twitter thread to explain that she felt particularly intimidated by sharing the makeup space with “the big guys” (the aforementioned Vance & Smollett). The actress suggested she might have protested a little more had she owned the standard extras. The point is, Amirah felt small and, in her own words, she “choked”.
Press 1 for PR
Kelli Amirah’s Twitter thread was posted on March 6. By the evening of March 7 The Hollywood Reporter had received a statement from HBO regarding the Lovecraft Land situation.
“This should not have happened, and we are taking steps to ensure that this does not happen in the future,” the premium cable output promised. None of the actors or producers involved Lovecraft Land have already spoken out about this.
Worth mentioning: Kelli Amirah’s Lovecraft Land experience took place months ago when the show was taped. It didn’t emerge until February as the actress responded to a TikTok prompt asking, “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen as a background actor?” – a question that HBO will probably not soon forget.
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