At the For the People panel at Monday’s Television Critics Association press tour, the showrunner of Shondaland’s upcoming show says the recasting of the series lead role was not due to race.
In the pilot, Sandra was played by black actress Britne Oldford, and Lyndon Smith was another of the lead characters, Sandra’s roommate and co-worker, Allison.
After an extensive search, Britt Robertson was recast as Sandra and Jasmin Savoy Brown was recast as Allison, essentially flipping the races of the characters.
Paul William Davis told the TCA crowd that changing the race of the characters was not a “conscious decision.”
“It really wasn’t (a factor), because it wasn’t like we moved from Britne to Britt. We moved through a tracking period, looking at other actresses. And part of it was just redefining the role of Sandra. She plays a little bit differently than she did in the original version. There was discussion with the network about the creative direction of the show. And so in the context of that, I ended up rewriting things. We also decided, just in the nature of the chemistry, that we would recast. I think those actresses, both of them are amazing, Britne and Lyndon. And I think Britt and Jasmin are incredible. There really is kind of a different dynamic,” he said.
The recastings briefly shut down production on the show to rework scripts.
Described as a legal drama, here’s the show’s description: “Set in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) Federal Court, aka ‘The Mother Court,’ this legal drama follows brand new lawyers working on opposite sides — for both the defense and the prosecution as they handle the most high profile and high stakes cases in the country, all as their personal lives intersect.”
The show debuts this March, joining ABC’s TGIT lineup.