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The last few years have brought a lot of change in the horror-sphere, especially in terms of representation, with newer releases boasting more diverse casts, from Jordan Peele's breakout hit Get Out in 2017 to one of Blumhouse's latest offerings, Evil Eye, which features an Indian American family at the heart of it.
But 20 years ago, this wasn't the case. As Final Destination creator Jeffrey Reddick tells Entertainment Tonight, any attempts to include Black or queer leads in his films ultimately ended up with the characters being straight and cast with white actors.
"I've actually written a lot of characters of different ethnic backgrounds in my scripts and they ended up casting them with white actors and actresses," says Reddick. The writer of the Day of the Dead remake then went on to say that the film industry at large would "automatically envision a white person" in a role unless the script specifies that it is a character of color.
But even that didn't prove enough when it came to Final Destination 2, in which Reddick had stated that the lead character of Kimberly Corman was originally written as a Black woman. "In my treatment, I wrote the character of Kimberly as Black, but when it got to the script stage, that description was removed and they cast a white actress."
So while he feels that actress A.J. Cook (Criminal Minds), who did end up playing the part (as shown above), was great in the role, he had hoped that a Black actress would be considered for it as well.
"It's been something that I've been fighting for 20 years, while I've been in the business, to try and get more diverse voices and characters onscreen,” says Reddick, who has also faced a similar kind of battle when it comes to featuring openly queer leads in the films he writes, something that is still all too rare in the horror genre. "Usually the people of color get whitewashed and my gay or lesbian characters get de-gayed. It’s been very frustrating as a creative person and as a person of color who's gay, it's especially frustrating."
One of Reddick's recent projects is a slasher film that features an openly gay second lead. "He's a great character, not like a side character or token," says the screenwriter.
A studio expressed interest in the project, but they also went on to insist that YouTuber Logan Paul be cast in that particular role. "And then magically his reps didn't want him playing gay," says Reddick.
The film is currently looking for financiers, but Reddick says, "Luckily we're not doing it that way anymore. And he’s going to stay gay, motherf**ker."
Reddick's latest film, Don't Look Back, does feature a Black female lead, played by Kourtney Bell. The movie tells the story of a group of bystanders who witness a man being fatally assaulted. But instead of doing anything to help, they record it on their cell phones. That seems to be the wrong decision, as soon they're being picked off one by one, as if bad karma is coming back to get them. The movie is currently out in select theaters and available on demand.