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Acura apologizes for seeking 'not too dark' actor

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 9:43 AM EDT, Thu April 19, 2012
Acura said it was taking appropriate measures to ensure that such language is not used again in work performed on its behalf.
Acura said it was taking appropriate measures to ensure that such language is not used again in work performed on its behalf.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Casting sheet calls for an African-American actor, "Nice looking, friendly. Not too dark."
  • Acura points blame at the casting agency
  • The Super Bowl ad featured comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno
  • "People in the business a long time deal with this every day," talent manager says

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Acura apologized Wednesday for a casting document that called for an African-American actor who was "not too dark" in the car company's Super Bowl ad.

The controversial casting call document, published Wednesday by the celebrity gossip site TMZ, "pulls back the curtain" on the widely known practice of casting based on skin tone in Hollywood, a longtime manager said.

TMZ reported that it got the audition posting from "an African-American actor who didn't fit the profile, and who's pissed."

The role was for an "African-American Car Dealer" who would appear in a car showroom scene with Jerry Seinfeld. Jay Leno also appeared in the ad.

The sheet's "role details" read: "Nice Looking, friendly. Not too dark. Will work with a MAJOR COMEDIAN."

Acura spokesman Gary Robinson told CNN that the company did not know about the casting description until the TMZ story was published.

"Any of the creative directions didn't come from Acura," Robins said. "They would've come from the casting agency."

Cathi Carlton Casting, the agency hired by Acura to choose actors, declined comment. An employee who answered the phone at the agency's Santa Monica, California, office said they would defer to Acura's apology.

"We apologize to anyone offended by the language on the casting sheet used in the selection of actors for one of our commercials," Acura said in a statement to CNN. "We sought to cast an African-American in a prominent role in the commercial, and we made our selection based on the fact that he was the most talented actor."

Acura said it was "taking appropriate measures to ensure that such language is not used again in association with any work performed on behalf of our brand."

Longtime Hollywood manager Roger Neal said he was not shocked that a casting director would choose based on skin tone.

"People in the business a long time deal with this every day," he said.

But Neal, who has looked at daily casting breakdowns for 31 years, said he was surprised the description was written on a casting document.

"I've never seen it in writing before," Neal said. "No one has been bold enough to put it in writing."

The publication of the casting sheet "pulls back the curtain" on the casting practice, he said.

Neal said he suspects it was an inexperienced casting assistant who wrote the description.

Casting agents have told him in the past that his clients were too dark, or "not black enough," Neal said.

A euphemism in Hollywood is to tell a rejected actor that the casting director "went a different direction" when their race cost them an acting job, Neal said.

SAG-AFTRA, the actors union, "immediately reached out to the casting office when the notice was brought to our attention so we could discuss the specific language used," it said in a statement sent to CNN Wednesday.

"Despite the intention behind it, the notice was clearly not as well stated as it could have been and this is an area in which SAG-AFTRA's equal employment opportunities and diversity staff can help," the union said.

CNN's Chris Dignam contributed to this report.

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