*There was a time in movie and television productions when making a period piece followed a certain pattern: white actors played the roles of white history makers and white female actresses played the roles of white women history makers. Those days may be over.
Following the success of the 2019 film, “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” Hollywood filmmakers are reevaluating how to approach casting of period dramas.
“The Personal History of David Copperfield” re-imagines Charles Dickens. In the film, Black actress Rosalind Eleazer plays Agnes, the love interest of Dickens, which traditionally would have been played by a white actress. It seems a trend is following.
In the Netflix series “Hollywood,” director Ryan Murphy rewrote a major role to accommodate Black female lead (Laura Harrier. In the new Hulu, satirical comedy “The Great,” which depicts the life of Catherine the Great, there is some color-blind casting.
In addition, Netflix’s upcoming period piece “Bridgerton” will feature an entirely color-blind cast (see trailer above). The production is produced by Shonda Rhimes and is based on Julia Quinn’s best-selling novels set in Regency London. The production will showcase Black and mixed-race actors, playing lords and ladies alongside of their white counterparts.
According to a growing number of casting directors, a rebalancing of the scale has long been overdue. There should be more actors and actresses from minority backgrounds to claim parts that correspond to their personal identities and talents, versus their color.
“I’m ashamed to say that the word ‘inclusive’ only started to be used a few years ago in our business,” says Kelly Valentine Hendry, Bridgerton’s casting director.
“Inclusive casting can also mean offering parts written for men to women, and ensuring that gay, transgender and disabled actors have opportunities to play people from their own communities,” said one Hollywood executive. “The goal is to address the systemic inequalities that exist within our business by providing marginalized groups with more work and preventing both the whitewashing and straightwashing of prominent roles.”