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CASTING AS A MEDIUM: Black History Month Edition.

February 24, 2017

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CASTING AS A MEDIUM: Black History Month Edition.

February 24, 2017

I had the privilege to work with Mahershala Ali on HOUSE OF CARDS and to vote for him at the SAG AWARDS for MOONLIGHT and HIDDEN FIGURES. Couldn't find a nicer, more humble, talented, hard working dude. Not to mention He's GREAT looking.  Congratulations, Mahershala! And congratulations to  Janelle Monae winning an Academy Award in one of her first film roles. 

 

I honor of #BlackHistoryMonth I like to shout out two of my favorite Actors, and two of my favorite films, which also happen to be the FIRST roles I ever saw them portray.

 

I'm talking about Denzel Washington in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING directed by Kenneth Branagh. And LISA BONET in HIGH FIDELITY directed by Stephen Frears. Not only are these two of my favorite Films, but I believe these casting choices pushed the envelope and helped bring us closer to the diversity in storytelling that we know today. 

 

I saw MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING when it came out in theaters in Washington, DC.  I wasn't quite 7. It was my first time seeing Denzel Washington in anything. Ever since then, I have considered Denzel as one of my favorite actors. Don Pedro is a noble and magnanimous Prince.   I simply LOVE the casting of Denzel as the the Smart, Handsome, Powerful, PRINCE opposite Keanu Reeves, who plays Don Pedro's villainous, Illegitimate brother, DON JOHN.  

It wasn't until recent years that I understood how interesting this casting choice really was, and in the context of diversity in casting and RACE, how REVOLUTIONARY. Possibly even, Evolutionary.

How many people would have cast those roles in REVERSE, that is, IF THEY'D CONSIDER CASTING A PERSON OF COLOR IN A SHAKESPEARE ROLE THAT WASN'T OTHELLO or Aaron in TITUS ANDRONICUS in the first place??!  TO me, this was really FUN, really SMART, and VERY EARLY 90's Casting at its GREATEST. 

 

 

When I was a Freshman in high school, my friend Jack showed me, HIGH FIDELITY. It quickly became one of my favorite films. (my friends Jack & Jeff still call me 'Charlie'...as in Charlie Nicholson, played EXPERTLY by the beautiful and talented Catherine Zeta-Jones.)  I never watched the COSBY SHOW so HIGH FIDELITY is the first time I ever recall seeing LISA BONET in an acting role. (I definitely already knew her as Lenny Kravitz wife, but had never seen her on screen.)

 

Lisa Bonet as Marie De Salle was OF COURSE, EVERYTHING. 

 

Now in 2017, I just, for the FIRST time, read Nick Hornby's book,  HIGH FIDELITY from which the movie was adapted.

In the book, HIGH FIDELITY is set in London, and the character Marie La Salle is an American musician living abroad in England.  Marie is a woman Living the exotic, daring, CREATIVE life the main character, Rob, only dreams of pursuing. The only reason Rob ALLOWS himself to get involved with someone romantically after his Breakup with longtime girlfriend, Laura, is  because Marie is DIFFERENT, Bohemian, Exotic. The foreign element of Marie's story EXCITES the Rob. 

 

In the film version , directed by Stephen Frears and cast by Victoria Thomas, (Vickie Thomas Casting), the story takes place in Chicago in the late 90's. Their are a number of actresses that you could have been "plugged" into the role of Marie De Salle, who were musically talented, beautiful and from overseas. (Milla Jovovich?!?!) But choosing a woman of color was a brilliant way to make Marie FOREIGN to Rob, without making her a literal FOREIGNER.  Being Black and an artist makes her CULTURALLY Different from Rob. And by choosing LISA BONET, you get an actress who, BLACK or White, Man or Woman, created a longing in US ALL: an intoxicating Bohemian Goddess who everybody wants to be and/or BE WITH. Plus, she's cool. Like impossibly COOL. Which is yet another thing that Rob LONGS to be, though he'd never admit it.

 

So, I'd love to thank the people behind these casting choices.  I'd like to thank DENZEL & LISA BONET for bringing these characters to life on the big screen. 

 

And Bless everybody who believes in continuing the push towards diversity in casting. Because, without Lisa BONÉT, you'd have not Janelle Mo-NAE.  So while you enjoying HIDDEN FIGURES, you go ahead and think about that.

 


Happy Black History Month, ya'll.

 

And don't forget to check out my other two favorite early Denzel flicks, THE PELICAN BRIEF and CRIMSON TIDE.

All the BLESS.

 

Elise

 

 

ELISE EDWARDS

SAG-AFTRA

IG/Twitter: @eliseanmchara

<3 <3 <3 

 

 

 

 

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