Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 02/2/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
WASHINGTON -- I suppose it's very nice for Mike Tyson, who was convicted of rape in 1992, that he's getting what he calls his "dream job" -- acting on Law & Order: SVU. The show's fans aren't quite as happy about it and have started a petition to ask NBC to cast someone else in the upcoming episode's role of a man with a troubled childhood who's now on death row.
Tyson's casting on a show that revolves around advocacy and justice for assault victims has sparked a debate about what opportunities people deserve after serving time for a violent crime and what constitutes an attempt at restitution. We probably won't get good answers to these questions with a debate over SVU. But if showrunner Warren Leight really wanted, as he said on Twitter, "to provoke discussion and awareness" by casting Tyson, it's useful to think about whether this is the best route to that goal -- or to good television.
Tyson's paid his debt to society and deserves a chance to work in his chosen profession, which is acting. But it's not as if the man lacks for opportunities. The director, James Toback, has featured Tyson as himself in his features When Will I Be Loved and Black and White, and he examined Tyson's life in a documentary that premiered at Cannes in 2008. Tyson's been in both Hangover movies, and Spike Lee produced Tyson's one-man show, Undisputed Truth, which got a Broadway run -- an exceedingly rare opportunity. I don't really think there's any question that Tyson has gotten a fair shot to pursue work in the entertainment industry, even if we're applying a heightened standard to compensate for the idea that there's employment discrimination against people who have been incarcerated.
As for Law & Order, the franchise has a rich history of famous guest stars. Generally, when celebrities play themselves, it's to integrate the events of the show into the real world of New York, as has been the case with cameos by the city's mayors. Otherwise, major actors are normally cast in roles that shake up our conception of their talents, as Cynthia Nixon did by playing a woman faking mental illness as part of an elaborate vengeance plot in 2007.
As a potentially sympathetic killer, it doesn't sound as if Tyson will be bringing local cred or fading into an out-of-the-box role -- and the worry is that the character's proximity to Tyson's life story will somehow whitewash his crimes.
Leight better hope that casting Tyson in this part really does lend life experience to the show and deepen the episode. Otherwise, it's SVU handing over its credibility to someone who still hasn't earned it.
-- Bloomberg News
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 2, 2013 E3
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
'Sharknado 2' whipped up storm of viewers, tweets
Final season of 'The Killing' gets darker
Starz' 'Outlander' brings novels to life vibrantly
New Grammer-Lawrence show not being promoted
Veteran TV impresario Robert Halmi Sr. dies at 90
Uprooted teen discovers she has two moms in complex, compelling drama
Contract dispute delays 'Big Bang' production
Networks not always goal for digital series
Lena Dunham to read from new book at JFL42
'Sharknado 2' touches down on Space
Allison Williams headed skyward as NBC's Peter Pan
Hockey players win another 'Amazing Race' leg
Idiotic shark-storm TV movie takes a big, hilarious, deliciously entertaining bite out of the Big Apple
The Pinkertons detective series to be shot in Winnipeg
Maggie Gyllenhaal glows as 'The Honorable Woman'
'Pawn Stars' TV star plans stores near famous shop
The Situation agrees to anger management classes
'Crazy Eyes' actress Uzo Aduba is crazy about fans
Take off your clothes to make it in TV
TV Blog Buzz: News on final season of 'Sons of Anarchy'
Fargo embraces Canadian winter
Seth Rogen surprised at North Korea's ire
Montreal chef Normand Laprise mentors youth
Zimmerman says he'll appeal NBC lawsuit dismissal
Scientists make love, war weapons in 'Manhattan'