What was believed to be a rumor scooped up by Schmoes Know, has now been confirmed to be 100% accurate by Bleeding Cool and The ForceCast‘s Eric Geller. Production on Star Wars: Episode VII has entered the casting phase. The news originates from Breakdown Services, Ltd., a communication network and professional casting system that provides access to talent agents and actors. The information states that April Webster, Alyssa Weisberg, and Nina Gold are the casting directors for the next Star Wars installment with casting associate Jessica Sherman and casting assistant Rachel Dill.
In addition, cast profiles have been released and include five men and two women.
[YOUNG MAN] Early 20s. Not classically handsome. He is witty and smart. Physically fit.
[MAN] Late 20s. Physically fit, handsome and confident.
[YOUNG WOMAN] Late teens. Physically fit, independent and with a great sense of humor.
[YOUNG WOMAN #2] Late teens. Tough, smart, physically fit.
[MAN – 40S] Physically fit, military type.
[MAN – 30ISH] An intellectual.
[MAN – 65-75] Tough and opinionated.
Many people realize that the Star Wars franchise struggles with acting, dialogue, and continuity. What many others don’t realize is that there is a significant shortage of female characters and people of color. “Wait, I thought this article was about casting news?” It is about casting news, but it’s also a concise analysis on what Star Wars (and media in general) is missing. I can name more male characters from the Star Wars saga than female characters, and for me, that’s a big problem.
As for people of color, from the top of my head I can name Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader, Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa, Ahmed Best as the voice of Jar Jar Binks, Daniel Logan as Boba Fett, Temuera Morrison as Jango Fett, Hugh Quarshie as Captain Panaka, and that’s about it. Not bad, coming from the top of my head. Although some of these actors had significant roles, only a few were part of the main cast.
“But, how can you add people of color if the previous actors were white? Obviously, their children have to be white.” Sure, the movie may focus on Han and Leia’s children as the leads of the film. There you go, standard white actors assigned the prominent roles in the film. There’s no changing that, unfortunately. However, there are still more characters and none of them HAVE to be played by white actors. That 30-ish intellectual male listed above, does he have to be white? Could he be played by an actor, who identifies himself as a Latino/Hispanic? If the Latino/Hispanic actor performs just as well as a white actor, why is the white actor often given the preference?
Let’s look at some statistics. Although a few years old, UCLA School of Law and UCLA Chicago Studies Research Center conducted a study in 2007. According to this research, “Latino, African American, Asian Americans, and Native American actors have few acting opportunities available to them. It suggested that 69 percent of roles were reserved for white actors and another 8.5 percent were open to white actors as well as nonwhite actors. Nonwhite actors were limited to between 0.5 percent and about 8 percent of the roles, depending on their racial background.” How upsetting is that? As a descendant of Ecuadorian and Puerto Rican families, it is highly upsetting.
Growing up, I was never one to rely on television or movies to define myself. I was confident enough to know that I was a proud Boricua and I didn’t need to be reassured of the fact. The Disney princesses were all white, but that didn’t stop me from imagining myself as a princess. Nobody said I couldn’t imagine myself as a princess because there were no Latina/Hispanic princesses. Now that I’m older, I realize that there are children and adults out there, who look for representation through media.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars transformed a whole new generation of children into Star Wars fans–children of various backgrounds. How awesome would it be for those diverse children to see someone like themselves as a main character in the sequel trilogy? I think it would be pretty awesome.
So here’s my plea to April Webster, Alyssa Weisberg, Nina Gold, Jessica Sherman, Rachel Dill, J. J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Bryan Burk, and Tommy Harper. Think about imagination. Think about ingenuity. Think about diversity. Think about change. Star Wars belongs to everyone. Everyone. It’s only fitting that the movies start reflecting that.