Can A Black Actor Play An Ape? Andy Serkis Weighs In | Extra Butter: Mowgli

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Did you watch Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle on Netflix this weekend? If you did you saw a dark telling of the classic story by Rudyard Kipling. The movie starts off when a human child named Mowgli is left in a woods after his parents are killed by an evil tiger named Shere Khan. The man cub is found by a wolf pack in the jungles of India and they take him in as one of their own to raise him to be a wolf. During the start of the movie, Mowgli learns the often harsh rules of the jungle. He has to complete a bunch of obstacles under the tutelage of a bear named Baloo and a panther named Bagheera. Mowgli learns quickly and becomes accepted by the animals of the jungle as one of their own, but the fearsome tiger Shere Khan is out for blood in order to shake up the peace in the jungle. There is a greater danger lurking in the jungle, as Mowgli comes face to face with his human origins.

On this episode of Extra Butter with Xilla Valentine, I sit down with Christian Bale who talks about playing a panther and Andy Serkis who not only directed the movie, but stars as Baloo, not the song singing bear we love, a mean version of him who only wants one thing, the man-cub to pass the test and join the wolf pack. During my conversation with Serkis, we talked about his now trademark motion caption acting style as well as if a Black actor could play an ape in today’s hypersensitive climate.

“Why not?” Serkis asked, “I think that as an actor you should have the ability to transcend any kind of political or identity boundaries or really anything. Not just in terms of race or color but size, how big you are, tall or short. Man or woman. What I say about this tech is its such a 21st-century tool, because it allows you to forget all of those identity badges and be able to have the possibility to play absolutely anything. And I think philosophically that’s really important.”

While the idea is valid and noble, we live in a world that’s plagued by the scars of racism and oppression where minority actors and actresses don’t get the same opportunities as their counterparts.

Mowgli is a real look inside the jungle and a realistic telling of the Mowgli’s story and it’s now streaming on Netflix.

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