HBO Responds After Lovecraft Country Extra Claims Her Skin Was Darkened by Show's Makeup Artists
HBO has responded after an extra in Lovecraft Country claimed that her skin was darkened by the show's makeup artists during a brief appearance on the series.
Last month, Kelli Amirah alleged in a TikTok video that the series' makeup artists darkened her skin via foundation in order to have her closer resemble the older version of a character she portrayed. In the episode, she appeared as a young bride in a throwback wedding photo.
"We were very disappointed to learn of Ms. Amirah's experience," a spokesperson for HBO told PEOPLE in a statement on Monday. "This should not have happened, and we are taking steps to ensure this doesn't occur again in the future."
In the video, Amirah claimed that she was on set in a makeup trailer when she overheard the makeup artists working on the series' cast, saying that she looked "a little lighter" than the other actress. As she began getting her makeup done on set, Amirah began to notice her foundation was "getting darker and darker," she recalled.
"Before I show these pictures, I'm going to preface this by saying I was so uncomfortable," Amirah said, before displaying images of herself in character after the makeup process.
"I had no idea they were going to do this to me beforehand. And if I knew beforehand, I would not have accepted this job," Amirah said. "Who thought this was a good idea?"
In a second TikTok video, Amirah recorded her brief appearance in a photo during the episode. She then shared, "As soon as we wrapped, I went right back to hair and makeup to ask for some makeup wipes because I refused to go out in the world like that."
Amirah also claimed that the show's makeup artists darkened her hands.
After the TikTok videos went viral over the weekend, Amirah addressed the controversy in a lengthy Twitter thread on Saturday.
"I've been getting a lot of very valid critiques for my complacency in allowing Lovecraft Country to darken my skin as a photo double for some set photography briefly featured in an episode," she wrote. "It's uncomfortable but it's not wrong. I was weak and complacent in that moment."
Amirah explained that there was "no mention" of her skin being too light to play the role when she was cast or when she went for her fitting days before getting her makeup done.
"Even then, I thought 'maybe they just meant a couple shades' I'm sure it won't be much more than a tan," she said. "And then they just kept painting me darker. So here I am, in the makeup trailer of a major network production with the lead stars of the show, and they're putting me in blackface."
"Now as this was happening I had so many conflicting thoughts in my head," Amirah recalled. "This is wrong. Why did they hire me. I should say something. What would I say? What would happen? If I hold up this production how much money goes down the drain. What will be my repercussions?"
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Amirah went on to say that she regrets not speaking up at the time and hopes her story prohibits this situation from ever happening again.
"The entertainment industry needs to do better," she said. "I need to do better. I didn't show up in the way I should have, and again, I'm sorry for that."
Lovecraft Country, based on the 2016 horror novel of the same name, stars Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Aunjanue Ellis, Courtney B. Vance, Abbey Lee, Jamie Chung and Michael K. Williams.
The series, which premiered its first season in the latter half of 2020, has received critical acclaim and was nominated for best television series — drama at the 2021 Golden Globes.