Without question, “Gotham” is one of the most successful television series to hit the fall season. The show debuted with a strong 8 million viewers, and has kept 6 million fans weekly. There has been an unexpected decrease, but FOX considers the Batman spin off one of the highest rated dramas in the last 14 years.
The show and Warner Bros., have been under scrutiny for attempting to “paint down” a white stuntwoman to body double for Jada Pinkett Smith. “Painting down” is Hollywood’s PG term for black face. NPR interviewed legendary, retired black stuntwoman Jadie Davis because she’s known for her vocal position on the (white) boys club mentality among the stuntman community. Davis got her start in the 1970’s as a double for “Foxy Brown” star, Pam Grier.
“First and foremost, it’s offensive. It really shouldn’t happen,” David says. “Painting somebody down, what it actually does is it takes work from someone else. You just took a job away from an African-American actress.”
In an upcoming documentary called Painted Down, (Bill) Cosby recounts his discomfort while watching his white stunt double being painted black. He was shocked to find out producer Sheldon Leonard had paid the body double $750 for the work, roughly $5,600 in today’s money.
“And I said, ‘Sheldon, you can save your money on makeup, because I know some guys I grew up with in the projects who will do that just for free dinner and a ticket to Hollywood for a day, and go to Disneyland,’ ” Cosby says.
Fortunately, WB decided to hire a black stuntwoman and stated that “painting down” was a bad idea:
“A mistake was made this week in casting a stunt woman for a guest star in a particular scene on the show,” the studio said in a statement. “The situation has been rectified, and we regret the error.”
Henry Barajas is the co-creator, writer and letterer for El Loco and Captain Unikorn. He has also written and lettered short stories for two successful Kickstarter SpazDog Press projects: Unite and Take Over: Stories inspired by The Smiths and Break The Walls: Comic Stories inspired by The Pixies. He is the Newsroom Research Assistant for The Arizona Daily Star and was nominated for the Shel Dorf Blogger of the Year award for his work at The Beat. You can follow him on Twitter @HenryBarajas and Google+.