Jada Smith’s ‘Queen Cleopatra’ Director Defends Black Casting, “What Bothers You So Much About a Black Cleopatra?”

Black Queen Cleopatra

Director Tina Gharavi has addressed the controversy surrounding the casting of biracial Black actress Adele James as Cleopatra in Netflix’s upcoming documentary series “Queen Cleopatra.” 

Gharavi explained that her decision to cast a black actress as the Greek-Egyptian ruler was a political act based on historical evidence that suggests Cleopatra was unlikely to have been white. 

Despite the backlash, Gharavi defended her decision, stating that it challenges the internalized white supremacy ingrained in Hollywood’s portrayal of historical figures.

Two petitions to “Cancel Netflix’s ‘Queen Cleopatra'” circulated with over 88,000 signatures combined, both of which have now been deleted by change.org. Some individuals accused the series of “blackwashing” Cleopatra’s heritage, alleging that the queen was of European descent and not black. 

However, historians have confirmed that while Cleopatra’s father was Macedonian-Greek, her mother’s ethnic origin is unknown. Despite this, Egyptian lawyer Mahmoud al-Semary filed a complaint with the nation’s public prosecutor requesting that Netflix be blocked in Egypt due to promoting “Afrocentric thinking.”

Gharavi cited Elizabeth Taylor’s portrayal of Cleopatra in the 1963 film as a direct influence on her decision to direct “Queen Cleopatra.” However, Gharavi questioned whether Taylor’s portrayal accurately represented the ancient queen, stating, “Was her skin really that white?” 

She also shared insights into the casting process of Adele James, noting that James was selected based on her ability to convey both Cleopatra’s beauty and strength.

Lead actress Adele James responded to the backlash on Twitter, stating that Cleopatra was a queen, not an enslaved person, and if individuals did not like the casting, they should not watch the show. The docuseries is narrated by Jada Pinkett Smith, who stated that the project was meant to “represent Black women.”

Netflix Turned off Comments On Cleopatra Trailer

Netflix faced criticism online and thousands of dislikes, resulting in the platform disabling comments for the Queen Cleopatra Trailer. The depiction of Cleopatra as Black in the reenactment scenes led to accusations of “Blackwashing” from many social media users. The Trailer has received 324000 dislikes on Youtube, with only 27000 likes.

The debate surrounding the show’s representation of Cleopatra is ongoing, and the documentary will be available to stream on Netflix from May 10.