Why People Are Upset That Will Smith Was Cast to Play Serena Williams's Dad
Will Smith has a brand new acting role, and while we're thrilled that at least he won't be painted head-to-toe-blue à la Violet Beuregarde this time, not everyone giddy about the gig.
On Monday, Variety reported that the 50-year-old will play Richard Williams, as in, father of Venus and Serena Williams, in a new project based on his life titled King Richard. Some critics immediately took issue with the casting because Smith has a much lighter skin tone than Williams.
"Colorism matters," tweeted sports columnist Clarence Hill Jr.
Others echoed the sentiment:
Another user commenting on the news made reference to Scarlett Johansson. As you'll recall, the actress drew backlash for her role as Major in Ghost in the Shell (a film based on an anime series) because critics believed the part should have been portrayed by an Asian actor. She was also briefly set to star as a transgender man in the film Rub & Tug before backing out following outrage.
Smith's casting calls to mind a similar situation last year, when actress Amandla Stenberg said that she stepped away from the audition process for Black Panther because she didn't think that, as a lighter-skinned black woman, she was right for the role.
“These are all dark-skinned actors playing Africans, and I feel like it would have just been off to see me as a bi-racial American with a Nigerian accent just pretending that I’m the same color as everyone else in the movie,” she told CBC. “That was really challenging, to make that decision, but I have no regrets. I recognize 100 percent that there are spaces that I should not take up and when I do take up a space it’s because I’ve thought really, really critically about it and I’ve consulted people I really trust and it feels right.”
Similarly, Zendaya has spoken of feeling like "Hollywood's acceptable version of a Black girl" because of her biracial background. "As a Black woman, as a light-skinned Black woman, it’s important that I’m using my privilege, my platform to show you how much beauty there is in the African-American community,” she said last spring at BeautyCon in Los Angeles. “I am Hollywood’s, I guess you could say, acceptable version of a Black girl, and that has to change.”