Color-blind casting still doesn't get a pass

The casting of the "Wonder Woman" actress Gal Gadot as the Egyptian queen Cleopatra in a new movie has stirred debate online. CNN's Chloe Melas reports.

Posted: Oct 17, 2020 10:31 AM
Updated: Oct 17, 2020 10:31 AM

History has a way of repeating itself.

I've written about controversy surrounding White actors portraying characters of color -- a practice that has existed throughout Hollywood's history -- multiple times.

In the most recent iteration of this pattern, Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Cleopatra, ancient queen of Egypt, in an upcoming film that will reunite her with "Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins.

This is not a new story, but it is a complicated one.

Because while Cleopatra ruled over Egypt, there has long been debate over whether she had African ancestry, given that she hailed from a long line of Macedonian Greeks. (As a geography reminder, Egypt is located on the continent of Africa.)

The belief that Cleopatra was a woman of color also caused consternation in 2010, when Stacy Schiff, the author of the biography "Cleopatra: A Life," suggested Angelina Jolie would be the perfect choice to play the queen in a film adaptation of her book. (Jolie also caught flak for playing real-life French journalist Mariane Pearl, who is of Afro-Cuban-Chinese-Dutch descent, in the 2007 film "A Mighty Heart").

But the issue is bigger than just one role.

"Color-blind casting," as it has come to be known, has both its critics and its supporters for myriad fair and important reasons.

Blackface, the offensive portrayals of Asians and Latinos by White actors, and underrepresentation of people of color behind the scenes all point to the fact that the entertainment industry has long had a race problem. So, it rankles when people believe a character to be "whitewashed."

Here are a handful of casting choices that have inflamed public feeling against Hollywood.

Jake Gyllenhaal: Folks were none too happy when the actor played the lead role in the 2010 fantasy film "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time." Gyllenhaal didn't love it, either.

"I think I learned a lot from that movie in that I spend a lot of time trying to be very thoughtful about the roles that I pick and why I'm picking them," he told Yahoo Entertainment last year. "And you're bound to slip up and be like, 'That wasn't right for me,' or 'That didn't fit perfectly.' There have been a number of roles like that. And then a number of roles that do."

Scarlett Johansson: Johansson caused a huge uproar in 2015 when she agreed to play an Asian woman in the film "Ghost in the Shell." The live-action remake of the Japanese manga (a comic or graphic novel) did not do well at the box office.

Leonardo DiCaprio: All it took was for Oscar-winning screenwriter David Franzoni to publicly express interest in DiCaprio playing 13th-century Persian poet and scholar of Islam Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi for people to be up in arms in 2016. For the record, DiCaprio has not been cast in the role.

Joseph Fiennes: Even Michael Jackson's daughter Paris expressed her displeasure when Fiennes was cast to play her father. A 2017 episode of the British TV series "Urban Myths" was pulled amid this controversy.

The list goes on and on. And it's not always White actors who are taken to task. Plenty has been written about complaints regarding "Hamilton" having a diverse cast playing real-life historical figures who were White.

The reality is that if Hollywood were a level playing field, we would be at a place where the argument could be made that all roles should be open to anyone and may the best person be cast.

But we aren't there yet.

And until we are, there will continue to be consternation -- especially from those craving better representation.

For your weekend

Three things to watch:

'A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote'

There is no way to escape politics this year, even if you wanted to.

For those who loved the TV series "The West Wing," Thursday is the day the reunion special airs on HBO Max (which is owned by CNN's parent company).

I, for one, will welcome the calming influence of Martin Sheen as President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet.

'Time'

Amazon bills this as an "intimate yet epic love story filmed over two decades," in which "indomitable matriarch Fox Rich strives to raise her six sons and keep her family together as she fights for her husband's release from the Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola."

For anyone who wants to be reminded of the power of love, "Time" starts streaming on Amazon Prime Friday.

'Batman: Death in the Family'

We have a bit of a wait for "The Batman" film, which is currently in production, but Warner Bros. (also owned by CNN's parent company) has a little something to tide us over.

According to our favorite critic, Brian Lowry, the "latest choose-your-own-adventure exercise falls into the category of DC's edgy direct-to-Blu-ray movies (earning, and carrying, an R rating), so the target audience is grown fanboys, not kids.

"But unlike a lot of these exercises, the viewer's choices take the story in wildly different directions, to the point where it feels like a distinct experience watching each version and its various forks in the road," Lowry wrote.

Will Robin die or live another day to assist the Dark Knight?

You tell us, since the ending is up to you.

"Batman: Death in the Family" is available on Blu-ray or for digital download.

Two things to listen to:

Shout-out to my fellow Baltimore native Mario, whose new album, "Closer to Mars," drops on Friday.

I've been following his career since 2002, when as a teen he burst on the scene with the hit R&B single "Just a Friend." Just last week, I cued up his ballad "Let Me Love You" to test our new surround system.

Now 34 and an actor who appeared in the live TV production of the musical "Rent," Mario talked to Revolt about how different it is making music these days.

"People create from a different space today. A lot of our music is influenced by the culture, whereas before we're influencing the culture," he said.

"Now, we're influenced by what we hear. 'Okay, this is going to work for TikTok' or 'this is going to work for this or that playlist' -- in the mainstream. There are a lot of artists who make music they love to make and it lands wherever it lands. Whoever's supposed to receive it, receives it."

Tom Petty left us in 2017 at the age of 66, but his music lives on.

"Wildflowers & All the Rest" contains a remastered version of the original 1994 "Wildflowers" album, plus previously unreleased songs.

The multi-LP project drops Friday.

One thing to talk about:

Sia may have hidden her face for years, but we can see her heart.

InStyle on Tuesday published a piece in which the singer talked more in-depth about adopting a pair of teen boys who had aged out of the foster care system.

She said she had long wanted to be a mom and had tried for years to get pregnant via in vitro fertilization with her ex-husband, filmmaker Erik Anders Lang.

"I learned the story of a 16-year-old boy (whom Sia prefers to keep anonymous to protect his identity) and instantly fell in love with him," she said. "Older children have a really hard time getting adopted, and when I saw him, I said to myself, 'That's my son.' I knew I wanted to help him."

He was 18 by the time Sia found him. She opened up her heart and her home to both him and his 18-year-old cousin, who had lived in a group home with him. Weeks after adopting them, the 44-year-old announced she was a grandmother after one of the boys became a dad.

Brava to a star of her magnitude reminding us that all children, no matter their age, deserve a family.

Something to sip on

Megan Thee Stallion has had some major ups and downs this year, but she's owning all of them and walking in her influence.

The New York Times published an opinion piece this week where she both celebrated the power of Black women and called out the world for not protecting them.

While Thee Stallion has been topping the music charts, she has continued to pursue her bachelor's degree in health administration at Texas Southern University.

Plenty of women in the rap game spit lyrics about being a boss, but Megan Thee Stallion is actually living it.

And proudly.

"I will never stop using my voice," she tweeted on Tuesday.

We are all the better for her speaking up and out.

Pop back here next Thursday for all the latest entertainment happenings that matter.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 613228

Reported Deaths: 9728
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion846851338
Lake45676687
Allen32980552
Hamilton29649315
St. Joseph27531382
Elkhart24478345
Vanderburgh19610250
Tippecanoe18108141
Johnson15191295
Porter14944169
Hendricks14485250
Madison11044222
Clark10811144
Vigo10795181
Monroe9458113
Delaware9170134
LaPorte9145164
Howard8292144
Kosciusko810183
Warrick680299
Hancock6782104
Bartholomew6640100
Floyd6507110
Wayne6177162
Grant6027116
Dubois558680
Boone556468
Morgan548695
Henry511464
Marshall506984
Cass486964
Dearborn486545
Noble475659
Jackson427747
Shelby420781
Lawrence393780
Clinton375044
Gibson374459
Harrison353045
DeKalb349864
Montgomery347654
Knox336239
Miami324544
Steuben315046
Whitley311126
Wabash305851
Adams302836
Ripley300546
Putnam298950
Huntington294860
Jasper291734
White275143
Daviess271774
Jefferson266238
Decatur249583
Fayette248648
Greene242262
Posey241028
Wells236951
LaGrange230062
Scott226839
Clay224332
Randolph215248
Jennings200636
Sullivan193533
Spencer193022
Washington188023
Fountain184927
Starke176444
Jay168623
Owen167637
Fulton164830
Orange160935
Carroll159715
Rush156318
Perry155929
Vermillion149734
Franklin149333
Tipton133133
Parke13088
Pike118526
Blackford111822
Pulaski97837
Newton92021
Brown88335
Benton87110
Crawford8099
Martin74913
Warren6857
Switzerland6695
Union6297
Ohio4977
Unassigned0376

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 868656

Reported Deaths: 10768
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin102154707
Cuyahoga865201153
Hamilton64744448
Montgomery43516419
Summit35250762
Lucas31663631
Butler31268232
Stark26096443
Warren19830142
Lorain19296229
Mahoning17471339
Lake16250154
Clermont16128112
Delaware1453680
Licking13326137
Fairfield1294981
Trumbull12920317
Greene12174141
Medina11732168
Clark11058265
Wood10457158
Allen9988127
Portage9454111
Miami924473
Richland9236118
Marion7486113
Tuscarawas7440183
Columbiana7409124
Pickaway732150
Wayne7111172
Muskingum710342
Erie6221130
Ross5558100
Hancock555292
Scioto542764
Geauga515955
Darke473492
Lawrence460658
Union456928
Ashtabula456473
Sandusky439562
Mercer435089
Seneca433866
Huron432841
Auglaize424164
Shelby422522
Jefferson422469
Belmont421145
Washington394240
Athens38389
Putnam378075
Madison358129
Knox356122
Ashland349038
Fulton340443
Defiance334486
Crawford325774
Preble322737
Brown315821
Logan312132
Ottawa296543
Clinton291543
Williams280367
Highland279018
Jackson265845
Guernsey257126
Champaign253428
Fayette239530
Morrow23464
Perry233718
Holmes226774
Henry221953
Hardin215533
Coshocton206922
Van Wert203445
Gallia199826
Wyandot196751
Pike178017
Adams177715
Hocking173224
Carroll157616
Paulding145321
Noble121040
Meigs109724
Monroe102232
Harrison89921
Morgan83931
Vinton71314
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
33° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 33°
Angola
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 30°
Huntington
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 32°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
33° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 33°
Lima
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 25°
Wintry Mix & Snow
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events