Black and Asian actors should be allowed to play white historical figures in period dramas in order to redress the balance in the acting history, a leading actress has said.
Gemma Chan, famous for her roles in Crazy Rich Asians and Channel 4’s Humans, said that casting should be more colourblind and that the musical Hamilton, in which a black man plays George Washington, has made the world more ready to see historical figures played by ethnic minority actors.
“Why are actors of colour, who have fewer opportunities anyway, only allowed to play their own race? And sometimes they’re not even allowed to play their own race,” she told Allure magazine.
The 36-year-old actress added: “I feel like Hamilton opened minds a lot. We have a black man playing George Washington. They describe it as ‘America then, told by America now.’ And I think our art should reflect life now”.
There was some controversy over Chan, of Chinese descent, playing Bess of Hardwick, a prominent white countess, in the 2018 film Mary Queen of Scots.
She argued that she was entitled to play the role, explaining: “John Wayne played Genghis Khan. If John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, I can play Bess of Hardwick.