In 2014, the mainstream media was introduced to director Ava DuVernay, who directed and co-wrote the critically acclaimed historical film Selma. After unveiling the film at the American Film Institute festival, Ava DuVernay soon captured the attention of both critics and the public alike with her revolutionary narratives told through black characters by black actors.
In February of 2016, DuVernay accepted her biggest directorial role yet, spear-heading the Disney remake of A Wrinkle in Time. She is the first African-American woman to direct a film with a budget of $100 million, which is an extraordinary accomplishment on its own. However, this film wouldn't be DuVernay's if she didn’t put her own spin on the 1963 science fiction novel. DuVernay will be directing this film with leads that are predominately women of color, and we are absolutely loving it!
Oprah Winfrey was one first actress to be announced for the film and as many know, she has experience working with DuVernay in the past. In A Wrinkle in Time, Winfrey will be playing the role of Mrs. Which, the wise leader of the Mrs. Ws who help to guide Meg, Charles, and Calvin throughout their adventure. Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon were later announced as the remaining two Mrs. Ws, with Kaling playing Mrs. Who and Witherspoon playing Mrs. Whatsit. Kaling is expected to bring on the laughs, but we also expect that she will play on the character’s vast linguistic and cultural expertise, while Witherspoon, with two Oscars for Best Actress under her belt and a slew of gut-busting roles like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, should entice audiences in her role.
And after teasing audiences, Disney finally announced who would be playing the leading role of 12-year-old Meg Murray. On September 13th, the studio announced that Storm Reid, a 13-year-old actress who has already starred in 12 Years a Slave and the upcoming release Sleight, will play Meg. The Hollywood Reporter adds that Meg's siblings and parents will all be black or mixed race, and the male lead, Calvin O'Keefe, will also be non-white. Casting for these roles has not yet been announced.
Over the past few years, Disney has made it their mission to include racially diverse characters and narratives into the world of Hollywood. In 2015, the studio released Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was the first Star Wars film to be produced by Disney, after it bought the rights to the franchise in 2012. What separated this film from the first six films was that a white woman and a black man played the two main protagonists of the film. In 2016, Disney is set to release its 56th animated feature film, Moana, which centers around a young Polynesian girl and her adventure in search of a fabled island.
It's likely that some fans of the classic novel will not be pleased by the racially diverse casting. Quvenzhané Wallis received quite a bit of hate for her role as little orphan Annie in the 2014 remake. Despite being the youngest actress to receive a nomination for Best Actress in her role in Beasts of the Southern Wild, the casting choice was still questioned.
Then there was the drama surrounding the casting of Noma Dumezweni in the London West End play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. People took to social media to voice their outrage that a black woman was cast in the role of Hermione Granger. However, when writing the novel, J.K. Rowling described Hermione as having brown eyes, frizzy hair, and incredibly clever mind. Nowhere does it say that Hermione was white and that the character cannot be portrayed as a woman of color. And let's not forget the reception of Amandla Stenberg portrayal of Rue in the Hunger Games and how fans freaked out that the character was cast by a black actress. Really, internet?
With Hollywood's history of whitewashing characters of color, should we really be surprised that some people feel this way? Although we hope that Reid will not experience the same fate as actresses of color who have come before her, it wouldn't be shocking if we saw a few trolls putting in their two-cents on the matter.
Online criticisms aside, we cannot wait to watch DuVernay’s film for ourselves and see how Storm Reid captures the character of Meg Murray. And if this cast of heavy hitters doesn’t convince you that this upcoming film is going to be a total hit, be sure to brush up on the literary novel for a refresher on the fantasy phenomenon.
Top photo: Twitter/Ava DuVernay
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