Swedish actor Fernando was told that he couldn’t be in an IKEA advertisement for the Greek market because he is black, according to Swedish news website The Local.
Fernando said he was saddened after he was told he “can’t be black for the Greek market”, in a forwarded e-mail rejecting him for a role in an IKEA ad. The e-mail sent to the casting agency by the Swedish company IKEA, was forwarded to him by his agent.
Fernando, a Stockholm-based stand-up comedian and actor who doesn’t want his surname published, spoke to The Local after the racist incident was made public by Swedish media.
“It’s common that these things happen, saying it to your face, but not actually to get it in an e-mail,” the actor told The Local.
In early November, IKEA began looking for Swedish actors who could star in an ad to be broadcast in Greece the date of the so-called “Black Friday” sales.
“The actor needs to be really good at comedy, with a dry sense of humour,” the brief read. Being a stand-up comedian, he sent a link with his show-reel to the agency.
But Fernando was ruled out because of his skin color. “If you’re an actor, sometimes you don’t get the job, and it doesn’t always depend on the color of your skin,” Fernando said.
The actor called the casting agency to complain about the wording, and was told it was a mistake which one of their staff had made under stress.
“They weren’t even polite. They just said it was a human error. It was not supposed to go to you, it was supposed to go to your agent,” he said. “They didn’t understand my point of view at all.”
“They said they are Jewish, so they can’t be racist,” he told The Local. “But I said it’s got nothing to do with your religion or your ethnicity, it was just wrong of you to write like this.”
IKEA told Sweden’s pubic television SVT that they had indeed included skin-color requirements for the advertisement.
“Sometimes you are looking for a blond man. Sometimes you are looking for a dark-haired woman, an Asian one or a South American,” Jakob Holmström, the company’s press spokesman, explained.
“There’s nothing unusual about that in itself. What’s unfortunate is the way this was formulated when he got a rejection,” he added.
Fernando’s agent Fia Hammarström, said that, “(The ad) was in Greece, so of course maybe they needed to have someone blue-eyed to say, ‘this is Sweden’.”
The actor said that IKEA’s press office was very understanding.