Black presidents in Hollywood

Earlier this year I blogged about an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times about how Hollywood has already introduced the American public to black presidents. Well the Times has another article, this one written by Greg Braxton titled Blacks in Hollywood’s White House. This article also talks about how Hollywood has already beaten the real world when it comes to black presidents.

Blacks in Hollywood’s White House

Barack Obama may get there yet, but movies and television have beaten him to the punch.

By Greg Braxton
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 22, 2008

EARLY evening settles on a quiet suburb of spacious homes and lush lawns. Suddenly, an ominous voice pierces the tranquillity: America is about to elect the first black president of the United States.

Within seconds, the streets flood with hundreds of panicked white people running from their homes. One man stops and lifts his face to the heavens, his arms outstretched, face etched with fear.

The satiric scene is a climactic highlight of 2003’s “Head of State,” a comedy starring Chris Rock as a Washington, D.C., alderman who uses a hip-hop-flavored campaign and a grass-roots attack against government to rise to the highest office in the land. In the film’s DVD commentary, Rock said, “I don’t know if I’ll see a black president in my lifetime.”

One of the best portrayals of a president who just happens to be a black male is Dennis Haysbert who starred as President David Palmer in the tv series “24.”

Of the handful of portrayals of black presidents, few have made their mark on pop culture as much as Dennis Haysbert on Fox’s action-thriller “24.” In the drama’s first season, in 2001, Haysbert was introduced as David Palmer, a senator running for president. When the second season started, Palmer was in the White House. Some people — including Haysbert — believe the actor’s commanding and dignified portrayal of Palmer may have subliminally eased Obama’s path to his nomination.

“Frankly and honestly, what my role did and the way I was able to play it and the way the writers wrote it opened the eyes of the American public that a black president was viable and could happen,” said Haysbert, who currently stars in CBS’ “The Unit.” “It always made perfect sense to me. I never played it like it was fake.”

Making color ‘incidental’

HAYSBERT, WHO supports Obama, added that making Palmer’s race a nonissue was integral to making the character more realistic and ultimately more presidential. The role was embraced not only by American viewers but by European fans who would compliment and commend him in his travels overseas to promote the series. “I never looked on him as being a ‘black’ president,” he added. “He was simply the best man in the position. That’s what we’re getting with Barack. The color of his skin is incidental to how he is inside.”

The article starts out talking about a scene from the Chris Rock film “Head of State.” The end of the article has Head of State co-writer Ali LeRoi stating the following about what could happen if they did “Head of State 2.”

And with Obama’s rise, now might be the time for a “Head of State 2.” LeRoi already has the perfect ending.

“We could have it where the black president really worked out in turning things around and then have a white guy run against him,” he said. “Then we can have a scene where we have all the black people running out their homes, screaming, ‘Oh, no, not another white guy!’ “

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