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Jaleel White calls out Hollywood for overlooking child actors: 'Our youth just gets hazed'

The morning after Stranger Things failed to win any major Emmys, Jaleel White tweeted his disappointment that the Television Academy didn’t recognize the show’s talented young cast.

“Not surprising the #Emmys only pretended to acknowledge #StrangerThings,” the onetime Family Matters star wrote Monday. “Ur family programs would be trash w/o solid young performers.” In a follow-up tweet, White noted that it’s been 33 years since a child actor won an Emmy. “Kids get roughed up in showbiz,” he said. “It ain’t always drugs.”

Shortly after posting his tweets, White, 40, spoke to EW about how he thinks young performers get overlooked in Hollywood, and why he doesn’t care for the term “child actor.”

“Sometimes our awards process can be very political, in terms of just driving personal agendas, and I think we forget,” he said. “It’s just a simple message that I was trying to get across: You don’t get good and become great at anything without starting at a young age and having tremendous consistency. Somehow our youth doesn’t get honored; our youth just gets hazed.”

White, who returns to the small screen later this month with Me, Myself & I, said that for some adult actors, “They feel so entitled to the accolade they’ve probably worked for their entire career, that it’s offensive to them almost that someone so young, who hasn’t been through journey, beat for that award. And I just think that’s the wrong attitude to look at it. For directors and producers, you’re not going to get competent performers on your set if they didn’t start at a young age and understand professionalism.”

Regarding Stranger Things, which he’s “a huge fan of,” White said, “I didn’t want to start up with the Emmys or anything like that, but when I see that sometimes … I really wish they would acknowledge some of these kids that come along and give a stellar performance.”

White also said there’s a stigma associated with being a child actor, and he’s trying to do his part to change that. “A lot of times, the assumption is that if you got labeled a child actor, it’s like, ‘Oh, well where’s your drug story?’” he said. “We live in an age of sound bites and buzz words. So if I say ‘child actor,’ automatically your mind says ‘Oh, drugs. Mug shot.’ … And I just think that’s so wrong, so I’m trying to coin this phrase ‘young performer.’”

— With reporting from Gerrad Hall.
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