Trending Topics

Did John Ridley’s Decision to Cast an Indian Actress In Lead Role of Black Power Series Cause Premiere to Bomb?

Director John Ridley’s new drama series, “Guerrilla,” has premiered to little fanfare and the controversy surrounding the lead Indian actress could be to blame.

On the debut episode of the series about the British Black Power movement of the 1970s, 182,000 viewers tuned into Showtime Sunday, April 16, according to Shadow and Act. The ratings for the second episode have yet to be released, but compared to other primetime series on the premium cable network, the ratings for the first “Guerilla” episode fall significantly behind the 900,000 average of “Billions” and further behind the 1 million for “Ray Donovan” and the 1.5 million for “Shameless.”

Controversy erupted over “Guerilla” earlier this month due to Ridley’s decision have an Indian actress play a lead role when the series focuses on Black empowerment. Freida Pinto plays Jas, a woman who teams up with her Black boyfriend Marcus, played by British actor Babou Ceesay, to free a political prisoner and establish a radical underground organization in 1970s London, testing their relationship and values in the process.

At a London screening of the series’ premiere, several audience members questioned why Ridley didn’t put a Black actress in Pinto’s role.

“I don’t want to make this overly personal, but part of why I chose to have a mixed-race couple at the center of this is that I’m in a mixed-race relationship,” Ridley said. “The things that are being said here, and how we are often received, is very equivalent to what’s going on right now [in the wider world]. My wife is a fighter, my wife is an activist, and yet, because our races are different, there are a lot of things we have to still put up with.”

The onscreen depiction appears to reference a time when African and South Asian descendants were collectively deemed Black in Britain and formed alliances against racism, according to Colorlines.

“Guerrilla,” which features Black women in secondary roles and includes one who is a police informant, has received positive reviews from top critics at the Daily Telegraph, IndieWire, and the Boston Globe.

Back to top