Amandla Stenberg has revealed the (very respectable) reason why she passed on playing a role in Marvel's blockbuster hit Black Panther. It's no surprise to learn that she was originally pursuing a role in the superhero film; what might be surprising is why she decided she wasn't right for the part. Stenberg was recently in Toronto as part of the TIFF Next Wave Festival, where she discussed her career, and why she walked away from this season's biggest movie.
Stenberg, who is bi-racial and has been vocal about race and representation in Hollywood, explained why she opted not to pursue a role in Black Panther. She admitted that being a bi-racial woman in Hollywood is something she thinks about, specifically in relation to diversity. This was also the main factor in her decision to ultimately pass on Ryan Coogler's Marvel Cinematic Universe film.
During her interview with Amanda Parris at the Toronto festival, Stenberg (via CBC News) admitted "One of the most challenging things for me to do was to walk away from Black Panther." She then explained why she chose to do so anyway:
"I got really, really close and they were like, 'do you want to continue fighting for this?' And I was like, this isn't right. These are all dark skin actors playing Africans and I feel like it would have just been off to see me as a bi-racial American with a Nigerian accent just pretending that I'm the same color as everyone else in the movie. That was really challenging, to make that decision, but I have no regrets."
Stenberg further revealed that she took a small break from acting after her breakout role as Rue in The Hunger Games, because she wasn't happy with the roles she was offered:
"I'm just someone who cannot fake it. I can only do something with my full heart invested or just not do it at all. I didn't feel like I had to be working all the time just to prove that I could work. I still have a lot of time. You don't have to force your career to happen all at once. I also just like to play characters that I believe in, that are three-dimensional, that I think are worth it. I don't really want to have to diminish myself to something less nuanced or less authentic just because those roles don't normally exist for someone like me."
As it were, Stenberg's casting as Starr Carter - the lead role in the big screen adaptation of Angie Thomas's hit book The Hate U Give, which encompasses race, racial profiling, bias and police brutality - also sparked a lot of online controversy and criticism. Fans of the book weren't thrilled that a light skinned, bi-racial actress was cast as the 16 year old protaganist who witnesses her best friend being shot by the police. While some were simply thrilled to see Thomas's book being made in to a mainstream movie, including Thomas herself, others were critical of the casting choices. Stenberg seems to be ok with her decision to play the teen, commenting in her TIFF interview that she takes her movie role choices very seriously:
"I recognize 100 per cent that there are spaces that I should not take up and when I do take up a space it's because I've thought really, really critically about it and I've consulted people I really trust and it feels right."
Even without a part in Black Panther, Stenberg remains an actress whose star is definitely on the rise. In addition to The Hate U Give, she also has two other movies - The Darkest Minds and Where Hands Touch - scheduled to be released this year. While she may have walked away from a role in Black Panther, there's no doubt that we will be seeing her in many other blockbusters soon enough.
Source: CBC News
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