When I saw all the hatred directed at Anna Diop and the sheer madness surrounding the announcement of her hasting as Starfire in the new live action TV show, Titans, I knew I wanted to talk about it on my podcast. Hollywood has a history of strange casting choices, but as far as I’ve seen, this isn’t one of them. Anna Diop is going to play an orange alien and the backlash over a Black woman being chosen is beyond ridiculous. I can only hope that it will calm down by the time the show premieres.
When I thought about the few opportunities people of color have historically had to play major roles in Hollywood, although the number is growing, it reminded me of something much less dramatic, but still impactful in my life. When I was in high school, I wanted to play Bloody Mary in South Pacific. She was outspoken, hilarious, and basically the matriarch on the island. The director at my school decided he wanted to be as authentic as possible in the casting, despite having no Polynesian students at the school, and the result was something hurtful and confusing to me. We could debate whether a student who’s half Chinese or a student who’s part Cherokee is closer to Polynesian, but that wasn’t entirely the point. Colorblind casting has worked in musicals and high school is the perfect opportunity to utilize it so that all the students can shine. Because we were in a White majority school, there were few opportunities for a POC lead character, so the roles of Polynesian leads in South Pacific were an exciting opportunity.
In this episode of Some Kind of Brown, I explore both of these casting dilemmas and I’d love to hear your opinion!
References for South Pacific and Once Upon a Mattress:
References for Anna Diop Casting: