Actor Kian Lawley has been dropped from the film adaptation of The Hate U Give after a video of him using racial slurs resurfaced online.
The video, recorded a few years ago, popped back up on social media timelines last week (NSFW language):
“Due to the controversy surrounding his past comments and behavior, Kian Lawley will no longer appear in The Hate U Give. The studio plans to recast the role of Chris and reshoot scenes as needed,” said a spokesperson for 20th Century Fox in a statement.
After the swift backlash, Lawley issued a vague apology of sorts on social media, which many did not accept.
if u don’t learn from ur mistakes, u can never grow as a person.
i’ve learned a lot & i am grateful to have the power to change. i never want to be who i was yesterday. we’re in a constant battle to become a better version of ourselves, use ur voice as ur weapon.
— Kian Lawley (@KianLawley) February 4, 2018
After criticisms against Lawley, the actor’s fans began to send negative comments to The Hate U Give’s author, Angie Thomas. #AngieThomasAppreciationDay was started on Twitter to celebrate her impact and work and counteract the attacks.
Thomas responded to Lawley’s video, in a now-deleted tweet which said: “A couple of things: 1. For those who are in the dark about the situation, I’m sorry. All will be revealed eventually. 2. For those who are aware, this is about more than a Tweet. 3. Comments like this, directed at me make it worse. I have no control but people who do are watching.”
First announced in (March 2016), 20th Century Fox subsidiary, Fox 2000, won a bidding war for Angie Thomas’ debut novel and tapped George Tillman Jr. to direct, with Stenberg attached to star. The novel, which Publisher’s Weekly says was at the center of a heated auction among 13 publishing houses, including all of the Big Five, earlier last year. It eventually went to Donna Bray of HarperCollins’ Balzer + Bray in what PW says was a six-figure deal for the young author.
The loaded cast includes Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Lamar Johnson, Algee Smith, Issa Rae, Sabrina Carpenter, Anthony Mackie and Common.
The Hate U Give tells the story of 16-year-old Starr (who Stenberg will portray), who navigates between the poverty-stricken slum she has grown up in and the upper-crust suburban prep school she attends. Her life is upended when she is an eyewitness to a police officer shooting her best friend, Khalil (Smith), who turns out to have been unarmed during the confrontation – but may or may not have been a drug dealer. As Starr finds herself even more torn between the two vastly different worlds she inhabits, she also has to contend with speaking her truth and, in the process, trying to stay alive herself.
Lawley was set to play Chris, Starr’s white boyfriend.
Thomas, a student in Belhaven University’s creative writing program at the time she came up with the idea for The Hate U Give in 2011, originally wrote it as a short story for her senior-year project, but it quickly expanded into a novel-length work. The title comes from a tattoo worn by Tupac Shakur (the acronym T.H.U.G.).
Tillman directed a script written by Tina Mabry and Aubrey Wells.
Principal photography recently wrapped in Atlanta.
UPDATE: Lawley issued a statement.
“Words have power and can do damage. I own mine and I am sorry. I respect Fox’s decision to recast this role for The Hate U Give as it is an important story, and it would not be appropriate for me to be involved considering the actions of my past. I understand the impact and I have grown and learned since then. From now on I plan to use my voice for positive change.”