“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

“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
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Earlier in the month, Netflix unveiled the trailer for Queen Cleopatra as part of the new season of Jada Pinkett Smith’s African Queens, a 4-series docudrama anthology that explores the history of various women rulers from the continent. Directed by BAFTA-winning Persian filmmaker Tina Gharavi, the documentary immediately garnered a lot of publicity not just for Queen Cleopatra’s name but also for its casting choice of having black actress Adele James in the titular role.

Director Tina Gharavi

This decision stirred up a provocative controversy that led to Gharavi and Pinkett-Smith receiving backlash for allegedly manipulating Queen Cleopatra’s ethnicity. Taking up the challenge to defend her choice to cast Adele James, Gharavi in her detailed essay, explained why her decision regarding Cleopatra’s past could actually be valid.

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”


“Why Couldn’t Queen Cleopatra Be Black”?, Asks Tina Gharavi

The docudrama Queen Cleopatra will stream on Netflix from May10th and director Tina Gharavi is in the eye of the storm for casting black actor Adele James to play the commanding Egyptian beauty. Amid criticism that the Queen’s Greek roots were diluted and erased by introducing James into the fray, Gharavi defended her decision by speaking about the earlier actors who played Cleopatra namely Elizabeth Taylor and Monica Bellucci to name a few.

“I remember as a kid seeing Elizabeth Taylor play Cleopatra. I was captivated, but even then, I felt the image was not right. Was her skin really that white? After 300 years, surely, we can safely say Cleopatra was Egyptian. She was no more Greek or Macedonian than Rita Wilson or Jennifer Aniston. Both are one generation from Greece”.

Elizabeth Taylor played Queen Cleopatra in the 1963 film

Gharavi went on to say that despite proof that Cleopatra was indeed from Egypt, Egyptians themselves preferred to see their Queen being played by a white- skinned person despite knowing that historically , she could not have been so. Gharavi also added that with actors like Gal Gadot and Angelina Jolie also having been considered for the role, it was even more imperative that Queen Cleopatra’s ethnic history was properly researched.

Also Read: “We don’t get to see stories about Black queens”: Will Smith Lands in More Trouble After Netflix’s ‘Queen Cleopatra’ Gets Blasted by Historians to Appease Woke Crowd


Tina Gharavi Faced Backlash From Egyptians As Well For Queen Cleopatra

Director Tina Gharavi was in the center of an ethnic battle between the Greeks and the Egyptians for casting a black actor in Queen Cleopatra. On one side she received criticism from people who thought that she did not give importance to the Queen’s greek heritage. On the other hand, Egyptians pointed a finger at her for casting Adele James in the titular role. Gharavi had a fitting reply and stated,

Perhaps, it’s not just that I’ve directed a series that portrays Cleopatra as Black, but that I have asked Egyptians to see themselves as Africans, and they are furious at me for that. I am okay with this. No amount of reasoning or reminders that Arab invasions had not yet happened in Cleopatra’s age seemed to stem the tide of ridiculous comments.” 

Adele James as Queen Cleopatra

Gharavi went on to add that while there was no concrete proof that Cleopatra was black, it was a very distinct possibility that she could have been more dark- skinned than light-skinned, thereby making Adele James a more fitting choice to play the Queen than Elizabeth Taylor or Monica Bellucci.

Queen Cleopatra will stream on Netflix from May 10th, 2023


Also Read: Zendaya Set to Steal Gal Gadot’s Cleopatra Role After Marvel Star Reportedly Joining Dune 2 Director Denis Villeneuve for Historical Drama

Source: Variety


Written by Sharanya Sankar

Articles Published: 1180

Sharanya Sankar, Writer for Fandomwire
Having completed her Masters degree in Journalism and Mass Communication, Sharanya has a solid foundation in writing which is also one of her passions. She has worked previously with Book My show for a couple of years where she gained experience reviewing films and writing feature articles. Sharanya’s articles on film and pop culture have also been published on Film Companion, a popular film-based website. Apart from movies and pop culture, her interests include music and sports. She has contributed over 650 articles to Fandomwire so far.