Poseletso Sejosingoe-Mandela, Lamoi Leon, Etian Almeida, Matthieu Vinetot Disney’s The Lion King
The West End accurately representing queer people of colour... Lamoi: I would say yes, and I just moved here from the Caribbean. Seeing that here is so inspiring because that doesn’t exist in the Caribbean at all. I’ve just seen Kinky Boots and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. It’s cool to see gay people, and then Kinky Boots having a coloured lead is inspiring for me being a black, gay male dancer.
Matthieu: There’s still a lot more work to do, but we’re definitely on the right track. With Kinky Boots, Jamie, musicals have friends in Motown and Dreamgirls, they’re there and represented fairly.
Etian: It’s exciting times and I would say that 20 years ago we wouldn’t see this happening; a male, black and gay character being a lead. It was unthinkable. Right now, how the dialogue is going and the conversation is happening, it gives you hope for a really good future of theatre and the industry. There’s an opening up and the fact it’s happening on the small and big screen – there’s influence there. Not everyone goes to the theatre, but the movies... it goes into everybody’s house. Films like Moonlight. It brings a bit of understanding that those issues happen in the black gay community scene and it’s normal. It’s fine.
Poseletso: Having to work for a company (Disney) that supports gay people with Pride and all that... a company that is 80% black artists in the production, being in The Lion King we know we are protected and know we are supported. We feel comfortable in the surroundings.
Etian: The landscape is changing. We see it. We feel it.
Matthieu: We’ve heard it.
On the intersection of being queer and black helping them navigate the world of theatre...
Matthieu: I think it really depends on what you’re doing and what show you’re auditioning for. I don’t think my sexual orientation stopped me from getting jobs, but being black when you’re auditioning for things like Lion King or Aladdin or Motown or Dreamgirls, the cast is like 70% black so is really helpful. On a personal level... my sexual orientation has never been part of the process.
Poseletso: That’s because we call ourselves ‘actors’. You can act being straight, you can act being gay. I can act like a 50 year old woman, but doesn’t mean that when I get in there, I need to literally be the woman. It’s about acting.
Etian: It’s your talent, your skill, your craft. You should let it speak itself. While your sexuality orientation matters, it shouldn’t come across.
You’re an artist.
Matthieu: On our level, I don’t think it plays a part. We were talking about the West End, but in the film industry, it plays a part. Everybody is interested in the sexual orientation of this actor or what they do, but here it really doesn’t matter. This is why I said earlier that there’s work to do and to be done, but we’re on the right track.