Filmmaker Charles Stone III was forced to do an about-face when casting the role of Jayson in his new marching-band dramedy Drumline (opening Friday). Described in the original script as "racially ambiguous," the part ended up going to white actor GQ at the request of 20th Century Fox. Money-conscious execs apparently thought that adding a dash of color to the all-black ensemble would make the flick more palatable to mainstream audiences thereby boosting the film's bottom line.
"They felt like, 'Well, if we're going to give you [X-amount of] money to make the film, then we need some sort of assurance that we're going to get some of it back,'" Stone tells TV Guide Online. "So, one suggestion was to make one of the characters white."
Reluctantly, the Paid in Full helmer made the change and Fox greenlit Drumline's $20 million budget. "I agreed to do it because I was thinking about the bigger picture," he says. "We needed a certain amount of money to make [the film]. So, I sat with the writers and producers and talked about it, and I agreed for it to happen.
"That character is not unrealistic; you do get white students in [black] schools," he adds, referring to the pic's fictional Atlanta A&T University. "But I thought the racially ambiguous character was fine."
In the end, Stone suspects his "compromise" was likely made in vain. "It's not like GQ is well known," he points out. "I can understand if we got a [big name to play Jayson], then there's an immediate draw. But he's not the type of actor where you go, 'Oh, I know him!' So, I don't know if it's going to boost sales."