Color-blind casting

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

The replacement of non-white characters with white ones, or the use of white actors (sometimes in blackface or yellowface) to portray minority roles, is referred to as whitewashing.


Production Year Description
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ 1925 The title character Judah Ben-Hur, who is Jewish, was played by Mexican actor Ramon Novarro.
The Plot to Overthrow Christmas 1944 In a radio play, the Roman emperor Nero was voiced by Eric Burroughs.
Doctor Zhivago 1965 The eponymous Dr. 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.
Never Say Never Again 1983 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, although 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. The character reverted to a white depiction in subsequent films by 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 white and Jewish in the novel.
The Shawshank Redemption 1994 An adaptation of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, Red, who is 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.
Wild Wild West 1999 Black actor Will Smith plays James West, a character originated by Caucasian actor Robert Conrad.
This England: The Histories 2000 David Oyelowo played of 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 TV series cast African-American actor Sam Jones III as Clark Kent's childhood friend Pete Ross, who, in the comic books, was white; Kristin Kreuk, of Dutch and Chinese descent, cast for the originally red-headed character Lana Lang; and Allison Mack, whose character Chloe Sullivan was intended to have a non-white ethnic background.
Daredevil 2003 Black actor Michael Clarke Duncan played Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin) who has always been portrayed in the Spider-Man comics as a Caucasian.
Catwoman 2004 Halle Berry portrayed the titular character in the 2004 film.
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 and the majority of readers assumed for various reasons that he would probably be white.
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 show, none of the characters was assigned a race and the best actors were chosen, leading to 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]
Merlin 2008 Several nonwhite actors play roles traditionally described in the Arthurian legends as white, most notably Guinevere and Elyan the White.
Max Payne 2008 Ludacris plays the role of 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 Heimdall, based on the Marvel Comics character commonly depicted as white, was played by Afro-Briton actor Idris Elba.
Skyfall 2012 The role of Miss Moneypenny, which had previously been cast as white, went to Naomie Harris,[12] who reprised the role in the next James Bond film, Spectre.
The Great Gatsby 2013 Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan played Meyer Wolfsheim, a character who was white and Jewish in the novel.
Man of Steel 2013 The role of Perry White, always previously portrayed as white, is played by black actor Laurence Fishburne.
Hannibal 2013 Fishburne co-starred as FBI agent Jack Crawford, who was previously portrayed by various white actors for his appearances in the films.
Fantastic Four 2015 Black actor Michael B. Jordan played The Human Torch, a character traditionally portrayed as white.
Hamilton 2015 Broadway musical. Historical figures including the Founding Fathers are played by people of multiple different races, who were all white in real life.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 2016 Black actress Noma Dumezweni played Hermione Granger, a character portrayed by the white actress Emma Watson in the Harry Potter films.[13][14]
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. The film also features black actress Christina Milan as Magenta, a role originated by white actress Patricia Quinn.
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.

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.[15] Actors Equity is a co-founder.[16]

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", The Independent.
  3. ^ Evening Standard Theatre Awards, 1990
  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
  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. ^ Jensen, Sharon. "The Non-Traditional Casting Project". National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  16. ^ "Actors' Equity Association Benefits: EEO & Diversity". Actors' Equity. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 

Further reading[edit]