Nicholas Sparks Weighs in on Oscars Diversity Controversy and How It’s Changing His Own Work

The romance novelist doesn't wear rose-colored glasses when speaking to the current awards show buzz.

Love story king Nicholas Sparks is known for having gorgeous, white leading men and women in his stories-turned-films. Instead of shying away from this, though, he acknowledges it and faces it head-on. When speaking to the author/producer Friday afternoon about his latest project to hit the big screen, The Choice, #OscarsSoWhite was simultaneously flooding my newsfeed, and naturally, I needed his input. It may seem contradictory given the casting in his films, but he agrees that white-washed awards show nominees is BS. Here’s his input:

“In the end, unlike so many people, you want to see [our] culture reflected in films. And that, of course, reflected in awards season. I think that’s a very important thing. It’s been a challenge for Hollywood for reasons I certainly am as curious about as anybody. I would love to see more diversity in the awards. More diversity in film. I think it would broaden the basis of readers, of movie-goers.”

Don’t shake your head just yet.

In Sparks’ latest novel, See Me, we’re seeing something in his work for the first time: a hispanic character. Why? “It’s much more reflective of the reality of North Carolina now,” he said. “Let’s reflect that accurately.” When asked about inspiration for the character and, for lack of a better term, getting it right, he says it was the people in his life. His sister-in-law is Mexican. He grew up in California where he says there were “a lot of hispanics and Mexicans.” “I have so many memories of teammates I ran track and field with, who I sat next to in class, knew their families. I have that whole experience to draw from.” And, fun fact: his first serious girlfriend was Native American. He says creating this character was like making any other: “as believable and real and authentic as possible.”

You may wonder why the lead actors in his films are always white, though. He explains. “In the end and across the board, characters who have been in my films have chosen themselves for the roles. You know it when you see it,” he says of the audition and casting process. “I don’t envision the characters prior to filming.” (Miley Cyrus was the only exception for The Last Song, due to a deal with Disney). “There are a lot of decisions that go into a choice like that, even boring things like availability, or their desire to do something like this, or age.”

Nevertheless, fans have acknowledged his effort in broadening character diversity, and he says the feedback has been “incredible.” But will we be seeing more diverse characters in his upcoming work? “Of course,” he says. “I want to write novels that reflect the world that I know.”

The Choice premieres February 5.

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