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Culture Jun 14, 2022 2:52 PM EST

'Terror on the Prairie' star Tyler Fischer on rebuilding his career after facing anti-white discrimination

"I quit acting for three years, because that I was getting emails like that, just explicitly out front like, 'Hey, I probably shouldn't submit you because you're white, but you're right for the role.'"

'Terror on the Prairie' star Tyler Fischer on rebuilding his career after facing anti-white discrimination
Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY

Tyler Fischer had no choice but to start his career over after his agent dropped him. He wasn't released for any fault of his own, or for any sensical reason, but because the entertainment industry was no longer interested in casting white guys. This isn't speculation, it's what he was actually told.

Sitting with Fischer between takes on the Montana set of  The Daily Wire's Terror on the Prairie, starring Gina Carano, a part for which he was solicited by producer Dallas Sonnier, he told reporters that his career came to an abrupt halt after he personally experienced pushback against "white guys" in the industry. This film, and his own work that he's put out on social media, is what saved him.

Fischer has a deep background in classical theatre arts. He studied at the University of Rhode Island, then in London, complete with a deep dive into Shakespeare before hitting the boards in New York and taking on off-Broadway roles and getting into stand up.

"I do stand up," he said, "and get seen by a lot of industry. Oftentimes, they want to bring me in to get me on Saturday Night Live. So I had one agent bring me on, and then sent me an email and said, 'We can't help white guys right now.' And they let me go."

He has the email. "And then I quit acting for three years, because that I was getting emails like that, just explicitly out front like, 'Hey, I probably shouldn't submit you because you're white, but you're right for the role,' or 'Hey, I wish you could have you but you're white.' And I just started collecting it. There wasn't really anywhere to go. I didn't really have relationships with the press. Everyone was just kind of putting up with it."

When asked why people were putting up with it, despite the obvious issues of discriminating against performers based on race, he said that he thinks "they're afraid to speak out."

"I think because there's a narrative-driven that if you're white, you can't be a victim of racism or discrimination," he said. Part of the definition of racism is that the discrimination can only come from the dominant group in order to be classed as racist, but Fischer thinks "that definition needs to be rewritten." He's experienced what discrimination looks like and was unable to get work based solely on skin color.

"I got another inquiry from a big management company," he said. "And the same thing happened. 'We've been scouting you, we want you.' Then 'We can't take you because you're white.'" He recorded that conversation.

These continued incidents, he said, "led to three years of depression and almost throwing away my career." And it didn't start all at once. "Probably six, seven years ago," he said, "it was a slow build. And then it just took on more and more steam. People became more and more comfortable being explicit about not hiring or considering based on race."

It was after that when he decided to start making work on his own and putting it out on social media.

"It really was an act of desperation," he said. "Like, I'm not gonna get into politics, you know, so I'm gonna make my own stuff." He started pitching ideas for TV shows and "ran into the same problem."

"'Hey, we have to have permission to replace you with a person of color,'" he recounted executives saying, "for my own TV show that I was pitching. And then once I started, I mean, I didn't even tell my therapist about this stuff. For two years. That's how hard it was for me to even say." He didn't want to admit that this was happening to him, and he felt ashamed.

"And meanwhile, I'm broke. I'm on Medicaid. I can't pay rent," he was living in Brooklyn, NY.

"I was running an Airbnb, renting four rooms, babysitting," he said, before he got a break. "I got hired to do a podcast, a pretty big one. And then after George Floyd, got a text from the person who was a friend and said, 'We can no longer have white men.'

"It was directly because of George Floyd," he was told. "And then it happened again. And so I just picked up my phone and literally just recreated the conversation. 'Hey, I'd love to have you on.' 'Hey, I'd love to be on.' 'Sorry, you can't be on.'"

"And I got hundreds of messages," he said. "And then I just started slowly. Just trying to keep it light-hearted, but make jokes about it, while being open about it. It was like a pre-canceling," he said.

It was still a bit of an uphill battle to change his mindset from one where he was holding back material to pitch a TV show, to getting to the point where he realized he should put it all out there on social media.

"I was still hoping I would get the TV show," Fischer said, "so I wasn't really going for it on social media, I was saving that stuff. Because they tell you to as well when you're pitching a show, 'hey, let's wait.' But once I started putting it out, and then making money on YouTube ads and getting sponsorship offers and tour dates. I'd say from three months ago till now [October 2021], I actually can start making not only a living, but a good living."

"I think that you can, you can almost hit some lightning in a bottle," he said, noting that he's "not really doing anything differently" than he would have done.

"I make fun of everything. So I made fun of that conversation and I make fun of Fauci, Trump. I mean, Biden, yeah, but because people are getting so afraid. And I think the left is going so far left. There's now this empty space where you can fill it and not be afraid."

"There is a big difference," he continued. "The big difference is you're not asking for permission anymore. Yeah, you're just doing what you want to do. You're not waiting for somebody to go out and give you an opportunity. You're just like, Yeah, I can do this."

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