The latest casting news for Jodie Turner-Smith has angered a certain subset on Twitter who believe the actor shouldn’t be cast in the role because of her race.
On October 30, Deadline reported that she was selected to play Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII of England, in a project for the U.K.’s Channel 5. The yet-to-be-named three-part miniseries is being called a story reframing the queen consort’s doomed marriage to the 16th century king as a “propulsive psychological thriller, told from a new perspective.”
Reaction to the news of the decision was swift, with many positive takes; however, it also attracted a flurry of disgruntled users who decried the casting as “Blackwashing” and a sign of “white erasure” that that the new TV drama was changing the race of a historical figure. Other users blithely asked, “Why can’t a white actor play Nelson Mandela?” or alleged that “the erasing of white history and white identity is openly promoted now. Only the willfully blind choose to ignore this fact.”
One user appeared to be offended that Turner-Smith was recruited to play a white character in lieu of having her tell a story with Black historical figures.
“So instead of casting a BW to tell a story centering incredible Black history — Mansa Musa’s Mali, Daurama’s struggle in Kano, Hatshepsut’s reign, etc. — you chose to rehash a well-trod white story and cast her as a queen who gets imprisoned, tortured, and beheaded. Ok then.”
They continued, “Diversity on screens means little of it’s not coupled with diversity of stories. Rehashing white history but with added Black suffering isn’t as cool as you seem to think it is.”
Even so, there were plenty of tweets supporting the decision and challenging those who hammered it with criticism.
In an interesting note about the continued erasure of Black people in European history, several Twitter users indicated that the existence of non-white people has often been downplayed and forgotten.
In addition, the roster of numerous white actors who have played races outside of their own had not been forgotten.
According to Variety, the series will “explore the final months of Boleyn’s life from her perspective, and will follow her as she struggles to survive, to secure a future for her daughter, and to challenge the powerful patriarchy closing in around her.”