Gemma Chan has responded to criticisms over her role as Bess of Hardwick in the 2018 film “Mary Queen of Scots.”
Chan, whose breakout performance in the hit film “Crazy Rich Asians” opened her acting career to more movie roles, plays a prominent White Countess in Elizabethan English society in the period drama.
The casting drew negative comments among netizens who took issue with her taking on the role while being non-White.
“Why are actors of color, who have fewer opportunities anyway, only allowed to play their own race?” asked the 36-year-old actress, who is of Chinese ancestry.
“And sometimes they’re not even allowed to play their own race. In the past, the role would be given to a white actor who would tape up their eyes and do the role in yellowface.”
“John Wayne played Genghis Khan. If John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, I can play Bess of Hardwick. 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.”
Emphasizing the importance of the representation of all ethnicities, body types and genders, she further noted, “If we portray a pure white past, people start to believe that’s how it was, and that’s not how it was.”
“It’s a very straightforward thing for me to do because that’s what I’ve always done in my work in theater and theater, actually, I think is much further ahead in terms of representation in storytelling than perhaps the screen is when it comes to period drama at the moment,” she was quoted as saying.
“So when I first started talking to Working Title and Focus about making this movie, I sat down and I said to them — and they were very supportive, I must say — that I could not make a period drama with an all-white cast. That was not a thing that I was prepared to do. It wasn’t what my work was about.”