Color-blind casting

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Nontraditional casting, integrated casting, or sometimes color-blind/gender-blind casting is the practice of casting without considering the actor's ethnicity, skin color and/or gender. A representative of the Actors' Equity Association has disputed the use of the term "color blind", preferring the definition "nontraditional casting". Nontraditional casting "is defined as the casting of ethnic minority actors in roles where race or ethnicity is not germane".[1]


Production Year Description
Doctor Zhivago 1965 Yuri Zhivago was played by Egyptian actor Omar Sharif.
Batman 1967 Eartha Kitt was cast as Catwoman on several episodes.
Jesus Christ Superstar 1973 African-American actor Carl Anderson was cast in the lead role of Judas Iscariot, successive to Ben Vereen playing the role in the original 1971 Broadway production.
I, Claudius 1976 Darien Angadi and Sam Dastor played key roles with Renu Setna and Roy Stewart in smaller speaking roles.
Sadat 1983 Louis Gossett Jr. as Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, although Sadat’s mother was from Sudan.
Never Say Never Again 1983 Black actor Bernie Casey was cast in the role of Felix Leiter. Most other depictions of Leiter, a recurring character in the James Bond franchise, have been white. Jeffrey Wright played the role in Casino Royale in 2006.
The Mahabharata 1989 Men from distinctly different ethnic groups were cast to play Indian brothers in the epic story of the nation's mythical founding.
Batman 1989 Billy Dee Williams was cast as Harvey Dent in the 1989 film. In subsequent films, the character was played by White American actors Tommy Lee Jones and Aaron Eckhart.
After the Fall 1990 Josette Simon played Maggie at the London National Theatre in 1990. The role is widely supposed to have been based on Arthur Miller's former wife Marilyn Monroe.[2][3]
The Bonfire of the Vanities 1990 Morgan Freeman plays Judge Leonard White, who was described as Ashkenazi Jewish in the original novel on which the film is based.
The Shawshank Redemption 1994 An adaptation of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. The character Red, described as Irish in the novella, is played by Morgan Freeman.[4]
Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella 1997 The movie contained a racially diverse cast, with Brandy Norwood as Cinderella, Bernadette Peters as her stepmother (with Veanne Cox and Natalie Desselle as Cinderella's stepsisters), Victor Garber as King Maximillian, Whoopi Goldberg as Queen Constantina, Whitney Houston as the fairy godmother, and Paolo Montalban as their son, Prince Christopher.
Annie 1999 Audra McDonald plays Grace, the secretary of Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks played by Victor Garber. At the end of the film, Grace and Warbucks become engaged. No reference is made that McDonald is African-American and Garber is white.
Wild Wild West 1999 African-American actor Will Smith plays Captain James West, a character originated by Caucasian actor Robert Conrad.
This England: The Histories 2000 British-Nigerian actor David Oyelowo played Henry VI of England. Oyelowo was the first black actor to play an English king in a major production of Shakespeare[5][6][7][8]
Smallville 2001 The television series cast African-American actor Sam Jones III as Clark Kent's childhood friend Pete Ross. In the decades-old comic books, this character was white. Kristin Kreuk, of Dutch and Chinese descent, was cast for the originally red-headed character Lana Lang; and Allison Mack was cast as Chloe Sullivan, written to have a non-white ethnic background.
Daredevil 2003 Black actor Michael Clarke Duncan played Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin), who was portrayed in earlier comics versions as a European-American.
Catwoman 2004 Halle Berry portrayed the titular character in the 2004 film.
Alexander 2004 Persian King Darius III is portrayed by Israeli actor Raz Degan. Indian King Porus was portrayed by Thai actor Bin Bunluerit.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 2005 Mos Def was cast as Ford Prefect. Although Ford's ethnicity was not explicitly stated in the books, he was described as having ginger hair.
Batman Begins 2005 Colin McFarlane was cast as Gillian B. Loeb in Batman Begins and its sequel, The Dark Knight.
Grey's Anatomy 2005 During the creation of the television series, none of the characters was assigned a race. Color-blind casting was used to choose the best actors for the roles, resulting in a racially diverse cast.[9]
Casino Royale 2006 Jeffrey Wright was cast as Felix Leiter in Casino Royale and its 2008 sequel, Quantum of Solace.
Robin Hood 2006 Kwame Kwei-Armah was cast as De Fourtnoy (Master-at-Arms) in "Who Shot the Sheriff?", the third episode.[10]
The Nativity Story'’ 2006 Joseph is portrayed by Guatemalan actor Oscar Isaac. Magi Balthasar was portrayed by Cameroonian-French actor Eriq Ebouaney. Elizabeth and Joachim were portrayed by Iranian actors Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Shaun Toub, with the latter being Jewish.
Merlin 2008 Several non-white actors play roles traditionally described in the historic Arthurian legends as white, most notably Guinevere and Elyan the White.
Max Payne 2008 Ludacris plays the role of Internal Affairs agent Jim Bravura, who is portrayed as white in the video game.
King Lear 2010 Black British actor Pippa Bennett-Warner played Cordelia in the 2010 Donmar Warehouse production of King Lear, starring Derek Jacobi in the title role.[11]
Thor 2011 The role of the sentry Heimdall, based on the Marvel Comics character commonly depicted as white, was played by Black British actor Idris Elba.
Skyfall 2012 The role of Miss Moneypenny, which had previously been cast as white, went to Naomie Harris.[12] She reprised the role in the next James Bond film, Spectre.
The Great Gatsby 2013 Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan played Meyer Wolfsheim, a character described as Ashkenazi Jewish in the original novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Man of Steel 2013 The role of Perry White, previously portrayed by white actors, is played by black American actor Laurence Fishburne.
The Sound of Music Live! 2013 Audra McDonald plays the Mother Abbess, a role traditionally played by a white actress.
Hannibal 2013 Laurence Fishburne co-starred as FBI agent Jack Crawford. In the previous films of this franchise, this character had been played by white actors.
Mary Kom 2014 Priyanka Chopra, who is of Punjabi heritage, portrays Mary Kom, who is of Kuki descent.
Annie 2014 Black actors Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx played the characters of Annie and Will (Warbucks) who have been portrayed as white in the previous productions.
Fantastic Four 2015 Black actor Michael B. Jordan played the Human Torch (Johnny Storm), a character traditionally portrayed as white.
Hamilton 2015 Broadway musical. Historical figures including the Founding Fathers, who were all white in real life, are played by people of multiple different races.
Quantico 2015 Indian actress Priyanka Chopra portrays Alex Parrish, who was originally written as white. Eventually, the character become half Indian.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 2016 Black actress Noma Dumezweni played Hermione Granger, a character portrayed by white actress Emma Watson in the Harry Potter films.[13][14]
Suicide Squad 2016 African-American actor Will Smith played the supervillain Deadshot, a character traditionally portrayed as half-Hispanic.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again 2016 This remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show stars black transgender actress Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a role originated by white male actor Tim Curry. Victoria Justice, who is of Puerto Rican descent, portrays Janet Weiss, a role originated by Susan Sarandon. The film also features black actress Christina Milian as Magenta, a role originated by white actress Patricia Quinn.
Doctor Strange 2016 British-Nigerian actor Chiwetel Ejiofor played Karl Mordo, who is a Transylvanian baron in the comics the film is based on, and Anglo-Scot actress Tilda Swinton played the Ancient One, traditionally represented as an old Himalayan man.
Riverale 2017 Based on the characters and setting of the long-running Archie Comics series, multiple characters traditionally depicted as white in the comics are portrayed by non-white actors in the show. Most noteably, Veronica Lodge is portrayed by Camila Mendes, who is of Brazilian descent: indeed, the entire Lodge family has been depicted as being of Latin-American descent in the series. Reggie Mantle is portrayed by Asian-American actors Ross Butler in season 1, and Charles Melton from season 2 onwards, Pop Tate is portrayed by black actor Alvin Sanders, and Josie and the Pussycats, a band originally consisting of one black member and two white members in the comics, are converted into an all-black group: Josie and Melody, both previously white, are portrayed by Ashleigh Murray and Hayley Law, respectively.
Beauty and the Beast 2017 Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Plumette, a castle maid who was represented in the animated movie as a white woman. Similarly, Audra McDonald plays Madame De Garderobe, an opera singer who was also white in the animated movie.
The Dark Tower 2017 Black actor Idris Elba plays Roland Deschain, a character who is described in the Dark Tower series as white and is said to have been inspired by white actor Clint Eastwood.
Frozen the Musical 2017 Black actor Jelani Alladin plays the character of Kristoff, a Scandinavian ice harvester.
Thor: Ragnarok 2017 The role of the bounty hunter Valkyrie, based on the Marvel Comics character commonly depicted as white, is played by African-American actress Tessa Thompson.
Deadpool 2 2018 The character Domino, drawn in comic books as a Caucasian with a dark patch of skin around her left eye, is portrayed by black German-American actress Zazie Beetz;[15][16] the anomalous skin patch was instead lighter than the rest of her complexion. The film also features Māori actor Julian Dennison as Rusty Collins / Firefist, a white[17] Oklahoma native in the comics, and biracial actor Lewis Tan (of partial Chinese descent) as Shatterstar, an extraterrestrial who in the comics has the appearance of a white human.[18]
Fahrenheit 451 2018 The character of Guy Montag, who was portrayed by Caucasian actor Oskar Werner in the 1966 adaptation, is portrayed by African-American actor Michael B. Jordan. Additionally, the character of Clarisse McClellan (portrayed by Julie Christie in the 1966 film) is played by Algerian actress Sofia Boutella.[19]
The Girl with All the Gifts 2016 In British post-apocalyptic zombie horror drama film, based on a novel by M.R. Carey of the same name, black actress Sennia Nanua plays main character of Melanie, who is of caucasian descent.
Steel_Magnolias_(2012_film) 2012 A contemporary retelling of the play Steel Magnolias and its 1989 film adaptation. The new film stars an all-Black American cast, including Queen Latifah as M'Lynn, Jill Scott as Truvy, Condola Rashād as Shelby, Adepero Oduye as Annelle, with Phylicia Rashād as Clairee and Alfre Woodard as Ouiser.
Death_at_a_Funeral_(2010_film) 2010 A 2010 American ensemble comedy film directed by Neil LaBute. The film is an American remake of the 2007 British film of the same name. Most of characters in the remake were black while in the original movie they were of caucasian descent.
The Flash 2014 In American tv show, based on DC Comics character Flash_(Barry_Allen), black actress Candice Patton plays character of Iris West. The originating comic book series featured the character as Iris West Allen, who is of caucasian descent.
Supergirl 2015 In American TV show, based on DC Comics character Supergirl, black actor Mehcad Brooks plays character of Jimmy Olsen and another black actor David Harewood plays character of Hank Henshaw. The originating comic book series featured the characters as James Bartholomew "Jimmy" Olsen and Hank Hendshaw, both as of caucasian descent.
The Karate Kid 2010 In Chinese-American martial arts action drama film, black actor Jaden Smith plays main character of Dre. The original 1984 film of the same name had a slightly different story and the main character's name was Daniel LaRusso and he was of caucasian descent.

The Non-Traditional Casting Project[edit]

The Non-Traditional Casting Project was founded in 1986 to examine problems of racial discrimination in theatre, film and television.[20] The Actors' Equity Association is a co-founder.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eisenberg, Alan (1988-10-23). "NONTRADITIONAL CASTING; When Race and Sex Don't Matter". New York Times.
  2. ^ Louise Jury, "Colour-blind casting finds new stars for Billy Elliott" Archived 3 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine., The Independent.
  3. ^ "Evening Standard Theatre Awards, 1990". Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 29 June 2007.
  4. ^ "Top Ten Reasons We Can't Get Enough of The Shawshank Redemption". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  5. ^ Fiachra Gibbons, "RSC casts black actor as English king for first time", The Guardian, 19 September 2000.
  6. ^ Hugh Quarshie, "Black kings are old hat", The Guardian, 20 September 2000.
  7. ^ Kate Kellaway, "My kingdom for a part", The Observer, 8 July 2001.
  8. ^ The latest British Theatre news for 04/01/01 Archived 4 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Matthew Fogel, "'Grey's Anatomy' Goes Colorblind", New York Times, 8 May 2005.
  10. ^ "Robin Hood (2006) - 1x03 - Who Shot the Sheriff?", Episode World.
  11. ^ Tim Walker, "Black actors are 'forced to leave Britain for America'", The Telegraph, 17 June 2011.
  12. ^ "No-one objected to Moneypenny being black because public were not told, says Naomie Harris". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  13. ^ Maltby, Kate. "There's nothing confusing about a black actress playing Hermione Granger – Spectator Blogs". Spectator Blogs. Retrieved 23 December 2015. JK Rowling tweeted this morning that she'd never specified Hermione's skin colour in the books
  14. ^ J. K. Rowling [@jk_rowling] (21 December 2015). "Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 20 January 2016 – via Twitter.
  15. ^ Thompson, Luke Y. "Interview: Deadpool's Rob Liefeld Talks Sequel, X-Force, And Taking Things Slow (Or Not!)". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  16. ^ "Zazie Beetz from "Atlanta" is going to be in "Deadpool 2," and we definitely approve this decision". Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  17. ^ "Who Is Julian Dennison's Mutant Kid Character in DEADPOOL 2? (SPOILERS) | Nerdist". Nerdist. 2018-05-18. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  18. ^ "BAZAAR Spotlight: Meet Lewis Tan, Hollywood's Kickass Asian Action Star". Harper's Bazaar Singapore. 2018-05-10. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  19. ^ Real, Evan (19 May 2018). "Michael B. Jordan Talks Significance of Inclusivity in 'Fahrenheit 451'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  20. ^ Jensen, Sharon. "The Non-Traditional Casting Project". National Endowment for the Arts. Archived from the original on 27 August 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  21. ^ "Actors' Equity Association Benefits: EEO & Diversity". Actors' Equity. Retrieved 2009-07-01.

Further reading[edit]