“We wrote these characters but when we went to cast it, one of the things I had felt, having been to the Emmys a couple times — you look around that room and you see the whitest f***ing room in the history of time. It’s just unbelievably white. And I just thought, we’re casting this show and we have an opportunity to do anything we want, why not cast the show with actors of colour? Like not for sure, and if we can’t find the actors who are great, we shouldn’t, but why don’t we make that effort because it wasn’t written that way and isn’t that the cooler version of doing this as opposed to saying ‘this is an urban show’.”
The quote above is from J.J. Abrams back in February 2013 when he was talking about a television show he created called Undercovers. Today, J. J. Abrams directs the the new and upcoming blockbuster film, Star Wars 7.
I start off with this quote because you can get a better sense of how aware J. J. Abrams was, even before he landed the Star Wars 7 gig, on issues of racial diversity within the film industry. It is not a happy coincidence that a good majority of the casts we see in Hollywood films are predominantly white.
The Star Wars franchise is no exception. Previous Star Wars films have had a very low number of non-white actors. In fact, did you know that the voice of Darth Vader was actually done by a black actor, James Earl Jones? And yet, on screen, Darth Vader is still cast as a white male actor.
This time around, J. J. Adams has cast notable non-white actors and actresses for the Star Wars 7 film, including John Boyega, Lupita Nyong’o, and Oscar Isaac. This is a noteworthy achievement for the promotion of colour blind casting auditions. Additionally, it is a step in the right direction towards the goal of making racially diverse casts the norm and not the anomaly in Hollywood.
However, with change, always comes some level of resistance. For Star Wars 7, it came in the form of a trending hashtag on Twitter.
This hashtag was tweeted and re-tweeted by people who considered J. J. Adams colour blind casting auditions as anti-white. However, quickly these tweets were met with some smart responses you really must take the time to read by clicking here.
J. J. Adams partially responded to this controversy when he tweeted the following message on the day the Star Wars 7 Official Trailer was to be released:
“We cannot wait to share the trailer with you tonight. I don’t care if you’re black, white, brown, Jawa, Wookiee, Jedi, or Sith. I just hope you like it!”
This enthusiastic and unabated attitude to the racially motivated backlash the cast of Star Wars 7 received on social media is exactly what I think the Internet needs to see more of.
In the end, Star Wars 7 is just another film. Mind you, it is a film that has an unprecedented amount of racial diversity among its cast members within the Star Wars franchise but it is just one film among many. Let us try to appreciate the film for what it is. An adaptation of a classic comic book series. I promise you that it is possible to watch this film and appreciate all the new, funky ways in which it re-creates a classic story.
Basically, this is one highly anticipated film you do not want to miss out on watching! So, whether you are for or against the diversity of the cast, have absolutely no clue which side of the coin you land, or just do not care, sit back and enjoy the show.
The film comes out December 18th.