CBS casts two white actors in roles written for people of color

Source: AP
Source: AP

The sky's the limit for white actors in Hollywood: They can play anyone, including people of another race. The latest example of onscreen whitewashing comes courtesy of CBS, which just cast two white actors in roles intended for people of color. 

That's according to the Wrap, which got its hands on a draft script for the network's upcoming Mission Control pilot. 

According to the Wrap, white actress Poppy Montgomery will play Julie Towne, a bilingual woman with a white father and Latina mother. White actor David Giuntoli will play Malik Stevenson, a character "explicitly described" as black in the original script written by Andy Weir.

Poppy Montgomery will play Julie Towne on CBS' upcoming 'Mission Control.'
Source: 
PLS Pool/Getty Images

According to the Wrap, both parts were originally offered to people of color who turned them down. The script was reportedly altered with Montgomery and Giuntoli's casting: Towne will no longer speak Spanish, and Stevenson will — obviously — not be black. 

Glenn Geller, president of CBS Entertainment, acknowledged in August the mostly white makeup of the network's actors. "We need to do better and we know it," Geller told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour, according to CNN. "That's really it. We need to do better." 

But so far, improvements have not been forthcoming. The Wrap reported that although the network announced a Drama Diversity Casting Initiative in October, most of CBS' new 2017 shows feature white actors in lead roles.

David Giuntoli will play Malik Stevenson, a character originally written as a black man, on CBS' upcoming 'Mission Control.'
Source: 
Jordan Strauss/AP

Of course, CBS isn't the only entertainment company guilty of whitewashing. The new film Ghost in the Shell received a barrage of criticism over the casting of Scarlett Johansson in a part many believe should have gone to an Asian actor. Asian actors get passed over for white actors all the goddamn time, a point actress Constance Wu has continually called out. "An Asian person who is competing against white people, for an audience of white people, has to train for that opportunity like it's the Olympics," Wu told the New York Times in May 2016.

But even as public conversation about making more inclusive art continues, movies like The Great Wall — starring Matt Damon as a white savior, according to Wu — and shows like Mission Control keep getting made. Everyone, like CBS' Geller, knows the problem of whitewashing exists, and film and television executives simply need to do better. That's really it. 

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Claire Lampen

Claire is a staff writer at Mic who covers women's issues and reproductive rights. She is based in New York and can be reached at claire@mic.com.

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