A trend has taken on another wave in Hollywood.
It’s a pattern in which Hollywood’s central casting machine turns on its default setting by choosing lighter complexioned black actresses. We’ve seen it happen with Halle Berry, followed by Zoe Saldana. Now, we see it again with the likes of Tessa Thompson, Zendaya, Yara Shahidi, Alexandra Shipp and Amandla Stenberg.
In an interview with Variety for its Power of Young Hollywood issue, The Hate U Give star acknowledged Hollywood’s trend of casting lighter-skinned actresses as the default whenever a role calls for a leading black woman. Stenberg noted that her role as a biracial woman had given her particular privilege in Hollywood.
“Me and Yara and Zendaya are perceived in the same way because we are lighter skinned brown girls,” she said. “We fill this interesting space of being accessible to Hollywood and accessible to white people in a way that darker skinned girls are not.”
For those unfamiliar, Stenberg’s casting as Starr in the upcoming film adaptation of Angie Thomas’ novel The Hate U Give drew ire on social media, as many felt that Starr, who was described in the book and illustrated on the cover as darker skinned, should have been played by a dark-skinned black actress.
Debra Cartwright, the cover art illustrator, said to Vulture she “literally just followed exactly what they said in the book.” However, upon hearing the news of Stenberg’s casting, while giving her props, Cartwright admitted she “wasn’t exactly thrilled because of the colorism in Hollywood and everything.”
“I was hoping it would be a very brown-skinned actress, because there’s so little opportunities in these big movies for darker-skinned actresses,” she said.
On that same token, the upcoming Netflix series Raising Dion, a story about a single mother raising her super-powered 7-year-old son, also incurred backlash. When casting was announced, many were taken aback when the mother-son duo cast to play the leads were of lighter complexion, compared to the ones seen in the trailer and comic, who have darker skin.
The Hate U Give will arrive in theaters on October 19.