The Color of Fear: Meet the Cast

Lee Mun Wah talks about casting the film:

hugh vasquez
Hugh Vasquez, Diversity Trainer, Former Director of Todos

Hugh worked with New Bridges (a youth-oriented camp dealing with diversity issues) in Oakland, California, along with Victor. I chose him because he had a sense of fairness in him that came across when the moment got heated and polarized. During the filming, I sensed that David Christensen listened to Hugh because of his compassion and his willingness to be honest with him about the experiences of Latinos in this country. One of the things that Hugh mentioned after the filming was that he came to the filming feeling burnt out about diversity work and left feeling hopeful and energized.

david lee
David Lee, Psychologist, Lawyer, Diversity Trainer

I did not choose David, but rather I think I was persuaded. He came to see me after hearing I was interviewing for my film. I had met him through Victor Lewis when they were both working for the Oakland Men’s Project. He told me that it was important to have a gay and Asian person in the film. I am not sure whether he suggested himself or led me to that conclusion, but he was perfect for the film. He has a way about him that is direct, yet persuasive - much like a lawyer, which he is. He has a keen sense of taking what seems very complex and making it into a simple, yet important point.

gordon clay
Gordon Clay, Founder/Director, Wildwood Hermitage

Gordon was someone who I had also known while I was doing men’s work. I chose him because he would often console me on the phone when I felt alone and isolated as a man of color in predominately all white groups. I later realized that though I appreciated his talking to me, I was also perplexed as to why he didn’t say anything while he watched me struggling to get everyone to understand what I was going through as a man of color. I felt that his role in the film was to represent my experience of many EuroAmericans – seeing something happen that was discriminatory, but not saying anything. Much like the “don’t ask, don’t tell” process operating in this country.

roberto almanzan
Roberto Almanzan, Therapist, Diversity Trainer

Roberto was probably the one person in the film that I knew the longest. Roberto and I met during the time I was doing a great deal of group work with men. I instantly found him to be a kind and passionate Latino man. He had a way about him that made you feel comfortable and safe. In some ways, I always felt he was the elder of the group.

One of my fondest memories of him was attending a meeting with a group EuroAmerican men to help plan a men’s conference. The leader of the group wanted us to get started immediately, but Roberto stopped him because he first wanted us to process what it was like for us, as men of color, coming into a predominantly white, wealthy neighborhood. I was astounded by his candor and willingness to risk revealing the truth so easily. It changed the whole course of the meeting and my impression of him from that moment on. His role in the film, especially the part about what it means to be an American, gave words to so many of us who have felt like outsiders for so long, but couldn’t find the words to describe our pain and anguish. To me, it was the turning point in the film, especially for the men of color.


victor lewis
Victor Lewis, Diversity Trainer, Universal Life Minister

Many folks have wondered how I came about choosing Victor. Actually, I bumped into him at a store and asked him if he wanted to be in the film. I really had no one in particular in mind, other than Loren Moye. I first learned about Victor when I read an article about urban racism that Victor had written, and I was taken by his clarity and passion. During my visits with Harrison Simms, the Director of the Oakland Men’s Project, I had an opportunity to watch Victor presenting a series of diversity exercises. He struck me as very charismatic and knowledgeable about race issues. I chose him, very much like Hugh, for his diversity training experience and for the passion he might bring to the film. Obviously, he exceeded my expectations. His speech about what it is like to a black man in America and the spikes in the road are forever etched in our hearts because it boldly describes our daily experiences as folks of color and the reality of the two Americas.

loren moye
Loren Moye, Teacher

Loren was a teacher’s aide at a San Francisco middle school where I was a Resource Specialist. I always found him very intelligent and knowledgeable about race issues and current events. I chose him because I found him very forthright and genuine. During the filming, he surprised me by his moving stories and insights. He was an important contrast to Victor and, to me, equally effective and memorable. I will always remember his Appalachian speech and the one about having to still shuffle in corporate America.

yutaka
Yutaka Matsumoto, Therapist

Yutaka was someone I knew when we were organizing Men of Color Conferences. As a therapist and friend, I found him very thoughtful and considerate. Though he was not my first choice, he certainly added many unique insights to what it is like being a Japanese man in this country. My first choice was another Chinese man who was very outspoken and impassioned against racism and other injustices, but I just couldn’t locate him in time. I have often wondered about what kind of impact he would have made on the film. He certainly would have broken the Chinese myth about quiet, mild mannered Asian men. But then again, it was Yutaka’s tender connection with David Christensen that also helped David Christensen become more open to hearing what people of color go through on a daily basis and the plight of Japanese Americans during the internment.

davis christiansen
David Christensen, Jeweler

David was one of the last ones I chose for the cast because he was the only one I didn’t know personally. From the beginning, I had a very strong sense of the type of EuroAmerican man I wanted – a middle aged man who was racist and didn’t know it, but might be willing to hear a different point of view. I asked a friend of mine, Spencer Brewer, if he knew anyone who might fit that particular description, and he said he knew just the perfect person. When I met David, I wasn’t particularly impressed. He definitely looked unassuming, but the moment he started talking, he emerged as the exact kind of person I was looking for. He talked about how Blacks were irresponsible and couldn’t be trusted, Chinese wouldn’t share anything, and Hispanics often took siestas.

In retrospect, I have often wondered why he didn’t mention any of these stereotypes during the filming. What I have finally come to realize is that he probably didn’t because he was only one of two white men in a room filled with a majority of people of color – a situation that EuroAmericans seldom have to experience, unless they are on vacation in another country. And so, finding himself in this situation, he became a “brother” to everyone.

In private, David later revealed that he thought Victor was on welfare and that most of the men of color hadn’t gone to college. When he discovered that he was the only one who didn’t go to college, he became “a brother” to all the men. Funny how not being in power changes one’s perspective and sense of safety.

cast collage