Actors Of Color Who’d Be Great In Classic Roles
As soon as CBS announced that their Nancy Drew reboot would star a non-white actress in the titular role, racist Twitter came crawling up to their keyboards to complain. For reasons I simply cannot understand, some people really object to actors of color filling roles that were previously portrayed as white people. Despite the fact that the film and TV industry is overwhelmingly white, and that Hollywood has a disturbing trend of totally whitewashing history, it’s still a whole ordeal every time an actor of color wins a much-deserved role.
Another recent example was when Black actress Noma Dumezweni was cast as Hermione Granger in the stage show Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and once again, white people totally lost it. This case was even more confusing, as a Black Hermione Granger actually fits really well with the book: everything from Hermione’s hair to her struggle against discrimination could apply to the experience of a young Black woman.
The truth is, making a fuss about actors of color filling previously white roles is as nonsensical as complaining that a brunette actor took a previously blonde role. Unless the entire plot hinges on the color of their skin or their heritage, then it just doesn’t matter. And in the case of the Harry Potter series, actively adding a racial element to the story could actually enhance it. That’s why I’m crossing my fingers for a Harry Potter TV reboot with a racially diverse cast, and while they’re at it, there are a few other roles I’ve been mentally recasting.
1. Harry and Hermione from Harry Potter: Booboo Stewart and Amandla Stenberg
There are some pretty clear racial metaphors in the treatment of Mudbloods and Half-bloods in the Wizarding World — so it would be great to see this brought to life with a mixed-race actor taking the role of Harry Potter. Booboo Stewart has the childlike looks to pull off playing a schoolboy, and he has the unassuming, contemplative looks to make him a totally believable troubled teen wizard.
This may be sacrilege, but I think Amandla Stenberg could play Hermione even better than Emma Watson herself. She's got the real-life smarts, too. If a TV show paired these two with a white Ron Weasley, you'd reflect an important race dynamic to children of color watching. These characters are aspirational enough to show children what they can achieve, but they face a realistic amount of race-centered struggle along the way.
2. Ella from Ella Enchanted: Kiersey Clemons
The 2004 adaptation of Ella Enchanted , my all-time favorite childhood book, was one of the worst things that ever happened. I love Anne Hathaway — but this film got Ella all wrong. She's supposed to be funny, powerful, and badass; she's supposed to be like Transparent's Kiersey Clemons. I'm going to keep crossing my fingers for this remake for pretty much the rest of my life.
3. Alice from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: China Anne McClain
China Anne McClain's elfin looks and mischievous fairy-tale demeanour just scream Alice in Wonderland — and she would look right at home among talking caterpillars, smiling cats, and mad, tea-drinking hatters. And of course, there's no reason why any of those characters should be played by white actors either.
4. Oliver and Artful Dodger from Oliver!: Rohan Chand and Tyrel Jackson Williams
Annie had a recent reboot; now it's Oliver!'s turn. And Rohan Chand has exactly the adorable innocence needed to tug at all our heartstrings were he to take on the role.
But how would Oliver survive on the streets if he didn't meet his artful sidekick? The moment you see Tyrel Jackson Williams's cheeky grin, it becomes pretty obvious he would ace this role.
5. Ariel from The Little Mermaid: Zendaya
I'm excited for the upcoming remake, and I'm sure the fabulous Chloë Grace Moretz will do a wonderful job, but how amazing would Zendaya have been? She's certainly got the hair for it.
6. Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye: Tony Revolori
The Catcher in the Rye has famously avoided a film adaptation so far, but were it ever to hit the screen, the casting of Holden Caulfield would have to be spot-on. Enter Tony Revolori, the fantastically talented The Grand Budapest Hotel actor who managed to steal the show even from Ralph Fiennes. That's some serious stage presence, kid. I have no doubt he could play Holden Caulfield with all the complexity the role deserves.