'The Hate U Give' Book Cover Illustrator Speaks On Film's Casting Controversy In New Interview

August 1st 2018

Despite the positive buzz surrounding the film adaptation of Angie Thomas' book The Hate U Give, colorism has come up once again as an issue, hitting both the creation of the book's cover art as well as the casting of Amandla Stenberg as lead character Starr.

Debra Cartwright, the cover art illustrator, said to Vulture she "literally just followed exactly what they said in the book." However, Cartwright admitted that she "wasn't exactly thrilled" with Stenberg's casting "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. "I can't fudge. That's how I felt. And the fact that Fox was like, 'We're going to have to lighten your illustration, we're going to have to change the hair.' In the movie, the illustration fades into the character, and I gave them the rights to change the illustration. It's kind of a bummer."

She continued, "...I obviously still think it's going to be a wonderful movie, because I think Amandla Stenberg's a great actress, but I also think there are plenty of other actresses who would be wonderful in this role as well," she said. "It was a very specific description in the book, and to see that the actress is not that description, that would annoy me as a reader, especially if I was a teen. If I saw that, as a teen, it would be very disheartening, a little damaging."

Last year, Thomas responded to attacks related to Stenberg's casting on Twitter by writing she was not responsible for the casting decision.

"For a book I thought wouldn't get published due to its subject matter, I am absolutely thrilled that THUG is even being made into a movie," she wrote.

During 2018's Essence Festival, Thomas elaborated more on Stenberg's casting, saying she always imagined Starr as Stenberg.

"Amandla was cast as Starr before there was a cover. When I was writing the book, I imagined Amandla." She said she watched Stenberg's video "Don't Cash Crop on My Cornrows" as she wrote the book.

Thomas said that she didn't have control over the cover, and because of that, she knew conversations of colorism would come up. "We have a long way to go in publishing as far as representation matching what the author says sometimes, but with me, Amandla is Starr. She embodied that character in so many ways, and I can't see anyone else playing this role."

Stenberg has now commented on the concerns in a on Instagram by posting the Essence Festival video with Thomas and writing a long post with the message that "those who are worried to know they are seen and heard."

"Something I love most about the black community is the accountability and expectation for greatness and consciousness that we maintain. I hope Angie's perspective can alleviate those concerns, though I don't expect it to address the age old conundrum of colorism and I'm glad this conversation is being opened up," they wrote. "The lack of diversity within the black girl representation we're finally getting is apparent and it's NOT ENOUGH, and I understand my role in the quest for onscreen diversity and the sensitivity I must have towards the colorism that I do not experience."

"...I navigate my industry with an acute awareness of how my accessibility contributes to the representation I am granted," they continued. "I do so with a vigilance concerning the commodification of blackness and not taking up space that doesn't belong to me. My biggest hope is that this precarious game of give and take we play with the historically white institution of Hollywood for the sake of representation can only lead to the diversity we want and deserve."

Over the past year I’ve heard concerns from my community around my casting as Starr in The Hate U Give and I want those who are worried to know they are seen and heard. Something that I love most about the black community is the accountability and expectation for greatness and consciousness that we maintain. I hope Angie’s perspective can alleviate those concerns, though I don’t expect it to address the age old conundrum of colorism and I’m glad this conversation is being opened up. The lack of diversity within the black girl representation we’re finally getting is apparent and it’s NOT ENOUGH, and I understand my role in the quest for onscreen diversity and the sensitivity I must have towards the colorism that I do not experience. Do I aim to represent all black girls? Hell nah! Do I expect all black girls to feel represented by me? Absolutely not. We encompass a beautiful and expansive plethora of experiences, identities and shades and it would be ridiculous to assume that I should or could represent all of us. I want my sisters to know I navigate my industry with an acute awareness of how my accessibility contributes to the representation I am granted. I do so with a vigilance concerning the commodification of blackness and not taking up space that doesn’t belong to me. My biggest hope is that this precarious game of give and take we play with the historically white institution of Hollywood for the sake of representation can only lead to the diversity we want and deserve. I want to see my mama on screen. And my niece. I want to see my friends, my peers... and all those who have given me the blessing of their support. Let’s continue to demand depictions that don’t placate European beauty standards. And after all this if you still don’t mess with the casting, hey, that’s your prerogative! But let’s show up to THUG for BLM, for rich and profound portrayals of contemporary black experience, for exploration of the nuance of bias, for black girl realness ????, for family, for gun control, for speaking up and out, for Philando, Tamir, Eric, Michael, Sandra and all the black lives that have been taken for no reason. ✊????

A post shared by amandla (@amandlastenberg) on

The Hate You Give, directed by George Tillman Jr., comes to theaters Oct. 19.

TRENDING