‘Dear White People’ Actor Says Lionsgate Wouldn’t Negotiate Offer But Did with White Actor

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Written by Ann Brown
Dear White People
“Dear White People” actor Jeremy Tardy says Lionsgate wouldn’t negotiate his offer but did with a white actor on the show. Photo: Jeremy Tardy speaks at the “68 Whiskey” panel during the Paramount Network TCA 2020 Winter Press Tour at the Langham Huntington on Jan. 14, 2020, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

Some might think this news is ironic. Jeremy Tardy, one of the actors in the groundbreaking Netflix show “Dear White People” — which focuses on modern U.S. race relations — is accusing Lionsgate studio of racial discrimination.

Tardy plays Kenyan student Rashid Bakr who is trying to maneuver through the challenges of being an African in the U.S. Tardy appeared in 11 episodes of the show’s first three seasons, six in Season 1, two in Season 2, and three in Season 3.

“Dear White People” is a satire based on series creator Justin Simien’s acclaimed debut indie feature. It’s set at a predominantly white Ivy League university where students must deal with racial tensions. It follows a group of Black Winchester University students and students of color “as they navigate a diverse landscape of social injustice, cultural bias, political correctness (or lack thereof) and activism in the millennial age,” Deadline reported.

Tardy laid his case out on Twitter.

“Unfortunately I will not be joining NETFLIX’s Dear White People for its fourth and final season due to my experience with Lionsgate and their practices of racial discrimination,” Tardy tweeted.

“After being offered to return for several episodes my team was notified that our counter offer would not be considered and that the initial offer was the ‘best and final’. This news was disturbing because one of my white colleagues — being a true ally — revealed that they too had received the same initial offer and had successfully negotiated a counter offer.

“My team expressed this issue to Lionsgate and the producers maintained their position that the white actor was able to negotiate while I was not- regardless of my credits and experience. With this information six recurring cast members, along with myself, banded together on Monday, August 30th.”

Tardy and six other recurring cast members collectively passed on the initial offer in an effort to negotiate better deals as a group, Deadline reported. But the strategy failed when members of group made side deals with the studio “before the collective group received a fair and equitable negotiation process.”

The studio has denied bias in cast negotiations. And, according to Lionsgate the standoff that led to Tardy’s exit “a purely financial negotiation,” Deadline reported.

Tardy said Lionsgate made him an offer to return for several episodes but refused to consider a counteroffer.

Tardy was eventually written off the series. 

“These companies have recently released statements and even donations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. I am calling out their shameful practices of discrimination and racial inequality with regard to how they have historically undervalued and lowballed people of color,” Tardy tweeted.

“Politically correct lip service and symbolic gestures do not absolve you of the daily responsibility of doing business in a fair and equitable manner. The fact that this has occurred behind the scenes of a show which purports to address systemic issues of racism and discrimination displays the very epitome of hypocrisy. Lionsgate. Netflix. I see you. We see you.”

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Lionsgate issued a statement about Tardy’s accusations.

“This was a purely financial negotiation regarding deal terms,” the company said. “Lionsgate is committed to equal treatment for all talent regardless of race, gender, age, or sexual orientation.  We are very proud of ‘Dear White People’ and its place in the national conversation about racial equality and social justice and we look forward to beginning production on its fourth season.”

Sources close to the production said the show’s budget for the fourth and final season was boosted significantly, with a portion of the increase set aside for recurring cast members who all were offered raises. Some of them accepted while others wanted more money. In the end, all offers were reportedly approved by Simien.