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“I’ve every right to have a shot”: Jada Smith’s Queen Cleopatra Actor Adele James Blasts Other Fair-Skinned Actresses in Same Role

“I’ve every right to have a shot”: Jada Smith’s Queen Cleopatra Actor Adele James Blasts Other Fair-Skinned Actresses in Same Role

The recently announced Cleopatra project on Netflix has attracted immense backlash, despite promoting cultural insight on the matter. Adele James’ take on the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra VII on Netflix’s African Queens series is now the subject of vehement scrutiny and critique for cultural buffs and historians, and both have been lashing out at the series (and the streamer) with such ferocity that the matter has now quickly become a divisive and troubling issue as far as the safety of the lead actress is concerned.

Queen Cleopatra
Adele James in Queen Cleopatra

Also read: “Where was the outrage then?”: Amidst Blackwashing Controversy, Queen Cleopatra Director Says HBO’s ‘Rome’ Portrayed Cleopatra as “Sleazy drug addict”, Cries Double Standards

Adele James Speaks Out On Her Queen Cleopatra Role

The miniseries starring British actress Adele James and backed by Jada Pinkett Smith needs no further introduction on its content further than its title: Queen Cleopatra. Made as a part of Netflix’s new initiative that navigates and documents the historical reigns of African queens, the show is intended to project a moderately fictionalized account of Cleopatra’s reign in Egypt and her subsequent fall alongside her husband, Mark Antony, during the conqueror Octavian Caesar’s rule.

However, the casting of Adele James has failed to go over smoothly with a faction of the audience, several of whom have taken to sending death threats to the actress, claiming the blackwashing of Cleopatra’s Macedonian lineage. James, in turn, has spoken out in an interview with Glamour.

“The only thing I can say about [Cleopatra’s background] is that we just don’t know. There are versions of Cleopatra that exist already with actresses in that role who are fairer skinned than I am, but I think I have every right to have a shot at humanizing this incredible woman. We all put our blood, sweat and tears into that show, and I think anybody else has as much of a right as anybody else to have a go at it because we just don’t know.

The death threats that I’ve received, the racist comments, it’s just the vitriol. It’s not necessary, and it’s very harmful, all we did was release a trailer and look at the response, so I’m anticipating a wave still yet to come.”

Adele James as Queen Cleopatra in Netflix docuseries
Adele James as Queen Cleopatra in Netflix docuseries

Also read: ‘Queen Cleopatra’ Actress Blasts Fans Despite Historical Inaccuracy While Gal Gadot Prepares for Movie With Wonder Woman Director Patty Jenkins: “Don’t watch the show”

Although the wave that Adele James speaks of may be a hard goal to reach, there are others who look at the Netflix series with a more open-minded and studied gaze. Due to the fact that little to nothing is known about the Queen’s mother, it is very possible that despite her father, Ptolemy XII being of pure Macedonian Greek ancestry, Cleopatra could still have an African lineage.

The Criticism Surrounding Queen Cleopatra’s Lineage

Soon after Netflix’s release of the trailer of Queen Cleopatra shows Adele James with curly hair, significantly establishing the Queen’s African lineage, a furious debate has taken control of the public sphere that has witnessed Mahmoud al-Semary, an Egyptian lawyer, filing a complaint to take “the necessary legal measures” to block the streaming access of Netflix in the country. He claimed that the streamer has violated Egyptian media laws and attempted to “promote the Afrocentric thinking… which includes slogans and writings aimed at distorting and erasing the Egyptian identity.”

Elizabeth Taylor portrays Cleopatra in celebrated Hollywood film
Elizabeth Taylor portrays Cleopatra in the celebrated Hollywood film

Also read: “She was no more Greek than Jennifer Aniston”: Queen Cleopatra Director Defends Casting Black Actress After Jada Pinkett-Smith Asked Her to Make Black-Centric Movie

Despite the backlash being now hurled at Netflix for blackwashing Queen Cleopatra’s history, a similar hatred was witnessed 3 years ago when European actress, Gal Gadot was signed onto a Cleopatra project with Patty Jenkins at the helm. At the time, the criticism focused on Cleopatra being of mixed heritage, potentially Black even, and that Gadot’s casting was simply enabling the whitewashing of the monarch’s lineage in literary and cinematic history. The conviction ran high at the time due to the discovery of a skeleton that was determined as being the queen’s potential sister, and a digital reconstruction of her face showed clear evidence of her being of mixed descent.

Queen Cleopatra is now available for streaming on Netflix.

Source: Glamour

Written by Diya Majumdar

Having graduated with honors in literature from Miranda House, Diya Majumdar now has more than 1200 published articles on Fandomwire, and her passion and profession both include dissecting the world of cinema. She happens to be a liberally opinionated person with an overbearing love for Monet, Edvard Munch, and Van Gogh, and an obsessive collection of Spotify playlists