The Corner

U.S.

Breaking News: Every Actor Has Just Been Pretending All Along!

Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of ‘Hamilton,’ arrives at the 71st PrimeTime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California, September 22, 2019. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Tomorrow, Disney+ subscribers will tune in to watch the movie version of the Broadway musical Hamilton — a June 2016 performance of the celebrated cast of almost entirely minority actors playing, as far as I can recall, entirely white historical figures.

As many articles have noted over the years, many white actors have played characters that were of different ethnic groups in the source material — sometimes in performances that became iconic, like Italian Al Pacino playing Cuban Tony Montana or Ben Kingsley as Ghandi, and sometimes in examples of awful miscasting, like Johnny Depp as Tonto or John Wayne as Genghis Kahn. (“We’re gonna take over all of Asia there, pilgrim.”)

No one complains that the white historical figures are somehow poorly served by the performers in Hamilton — not out of some sort of sense that the cast balances out past historical injustices in casting, but because they’re good performances. 

Imagine how many good performances we would have missed if casting directors believed that actors had to match the ethnicity of their characters precisely. In any historical drama, the actors will be older, younger, taller, shorter, fatter, skinner, or somehow different from the characters they play. All acting is an exercise in pretending to be someone that you aren’t. The late Leonard Nimoy was not an actual Vulcan.

Can a film or television show or play miscast a role, putting in an actor who simply isn’t plausible or compelling or entertaining, because they are of a different race? Absolutely. A film trailer announcer declaring “Tom Hanks is . . . Malcolm X” is probably not going to work. The diminutive and hilarious Kevin Hart would probably not make a great Abraham Lincoln in a drama.

But it’s not hard to picture actors of different races offering terrific and surprising performances. Imagine James Earl Jones playing Winston Churchill. Casting directors need the freedom to cast a wide net and look for the best performance they can find — unafraid of stirring up angry social-media mobs.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Laughing at Beyoncé’s Absolute Monarchy

Back in the Nineties, when hip-hop zealots questioned the intelligence of Beyoncé songs like Destiny’s Child’s careerist anthem “Survivor” and the sex-as-junk-food hit “Bootylicious,” there was little regard for the female agency that she now channels into an intersectional act, trading on gender and ... Read More
Film & TV

Laughing at Beyoncé’s Absolute Monarchy

Back in the Nineties, when hip-hop zealots questioned the intelligence of Beyoncé songs like Destiny’s Child’s careerist anthem “Survivor” and the sex-as-junk-food hit “Bootylicious,” there was little regard for the female agency that she now channels into an intersectional act, trading on gender and ... Read More
World

Massive Explosions Devastate Beirut

A series of massive explosions detonated in Beirut on Tuesday, with footage showing a mushroom cloud and shockwave emanating from the city port. [embed]https://twitter.com/air_intel/status/1290676373485490177[/embed] It is still unclear what caused the explosions. Lebanese security forces claimed the ... Read More
World

Massive Explosions Devastate Beirut

A series of massive explosions detonated in Beirut on Tuesday, with footage showing a mushroom cloud and shockwave emanating from the city port. [embed]https://twitter.com/air_intel/status/1290676373485490177[/embed] It is still unclear what caused the explosions. Lebanese security forces claimed the ... Read More

What or Who Decides This Election?

We know where to watch in the next few weeks but have no real idea what we will be watching. Yet pundits, the media, and the Left seem giddy that their polls show a Trump slump, as if they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from 2016. But in truth, the news cycle over the next three months may well favor ... Read More

What or Who Decides This Election?

We know where to watch in the next few weeks but have no real idea what we will be watching. Yet pundits, the media, and the Left seem giddy that their polls show a Trump slump, as if they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from 2016. But in truth, the news cycle over the next three months may well favor ... Read More
Culture

Monsters Galore

Vanity Fair, that peerless assessor of all things political, has bravely come out with the shocking opinion that the movies, TV, and our much-vaunted national media-industrial complex don’t hate right-wing women as much as they ought to, leading to the unjust and the always unhappy conclusion that people such ... Read More
Culture

Monsters Galore

Vanity Fair, that peerless assessor of all things political, has bravely come out with the shocking opinion that the movies, TV, and our much-vaunted national media-industrial complex don’t hate right-wing women as much as they ought to, leading to the unjust and the always unhappy conclusion that people such ... Read More

What He Saw at the Riots

Michael Tracey is an independent, left-leaning journalist who is a thorn in the side of the progressive consensus that is set on Twitter. He has been driving around the country to the sites of riots and protests. Because his work may be of some interest to NR readers, I thought I’d interview him. Full ... Read More

What He Saw at the Riots

Michael Tracey is an independent, left-leaning journalist who is a thorn in the side of the progressive consensus that is set on Twitter. He has been driving around the country to the sites of riots and protests. Because his work may be of some interest to NR readers, I thought I’d interview him. Full ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The World’s Worst Idea

Almost a decade ago, I wrote a little book called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism. When Regnery asked me to write the book, I was happy to do it but wondered whether a book on socialism, a brief conspectus of its grotesque failures, would be necessary or useful. I wondered why anybody would be ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The World’s Worst Idea

Almost a decade ago, I wrote a little book called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism. When Regnery asked me to write the book, I was happy to do it but wondered whether a book on socialism, a brief conspectus of its grotesque failures, would be necessary or useful. I wondered why anybody would be ... Read More