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Western-Sydney born actor Keiynan Lonsdale has gone from strength to strength since making the life-changing move to Hollywood, starring in major projects like Love, Simon and The Flash.
In an exclusive chat with Yahoo Lifestyle, the 29-year-old has opened up about the importance of diversity in the film and TV industry when it comes to choosing his next big role.
After featuring in an episode of All Saints as a teenager, Keiynan got his big break in the Australian teen drama Dance Academy, a series that was praised worldwide for its diverse representation.
His latest role is in the Stan Original drama series Eden, which is poised to be the next big homegrown hit.
Keiynan says the new project sets out to highlight a more accurate perspective of what Australia looks like than other shows in the past.
“I just thought it was cool because these are the stories I want to tell, this is the world that I see,” he explains.
“And I think it benefits our kids watching, adults watching, the world to just see more of what Australia really is.”
Keiynan acknowledges that when it comes to choosing his acting roles, he has a criteria based around how the project makes him feel.
“I just audition for stuff that really speaks to me, that I think I would have a good time doing, or that I think, I actually really need to do this,” he says.
Throughout his acting career, the Australian admits that there have been incidents where he has passed on a role due to a lack of diversity in the project.
“There’s times when I've been asked to audition for roles that I didn't feel like I would represent right myself. I'm like, this can go to more authentic casting than me,” Keiynan adds.
“I could deliver on my passion and stuff, but this really takes the job away from someone that really is this person. And we already need more people like this actually on-screen.”
Keiynan continues that while he believes actors will obtain the right jobs that are meant for them, he still has doubtful moments.
“I can question that a lot like, am I the right person for this role?,” he remarks.
“But sometimes you just know you're not, and other times you're like, I am, I'm just a bit scared, but that’s cool.”
In recent years, actors have been accused of “silencing” minorities when they decide to take on a controversial role.
Scarlett Johansson has been criticised on two occasions for her choice of characters: for ‘whitewashing’ in a Japanese live-action manga film, and for accepting the role of a transgender man.
People were also displeased with Emma Stone when she portrayed a Chinese-Hawaiian character in Aloha, and with Jared Leto for his Oscar-winning role as a transgender woman in Dallas Buyers Club.
Navigating work in America
Although Keiynan says he’s “super lucky” to have found such great success in the US, he admits it hasn’t come without its challenges.
“When I first came over, I was 22, doing a bunch of films and my mind was blown every day and I was tripping out,” he reveals.
“I think culturally, I've had to navigate and learn a lot about working and living in the States, you know, even just as a black man come from Australia.
"Things are different here and it's a big education, and then applying that and coming back home, it's definitely something that I work on and I don't take lightly.”
Filming in Australia
With the Stan Original Series Eden filming in Byron Bay last year, the former-Sydneysider embraced the chance to come back home for work.
“It was kind of a no brainer,” Keiynan says. “It was so cool to be able to be there for four months and film during a time like COVID.
“I had to get back to Australia and get to work with Aussies again, do some Australian storytelling. My soul needed it.”
All episodes of the Stan Original Series Eden are streaming now, only on Stan.
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