19-year-old actress Amandla Stenberg decided to walk away from her opportunity of earning a role in Marvel’s hit film “Black Panther,” which has garnered over $700 million in just two weeks alone.
“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,’” Stenberg told CBC in a recent interview. “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.”
The main cast, majority of the Dora Milaje, and extras in the movie are dark-skinned, and are meant to represent the people of Wakanda, a fictional African country that has never been colonized or infiltrated by Europeans. Stenberg recognizes the lack of roles for darker-skinned women, and did not want to take away one of few opportunities.
“That was really challenging, to make that decision, but I have no regrets,” she said. “I recognize 100 percent that there are spaces that I should not take up and when I do take up space it’s because I’ve thought really, really critically about it and I’ve consulted people I really trust and it feels right.”
Stenberg was orginally popularized by her role as Rue in “The Hunger Games,” and received backlash from readers who believed the character should not be played by a black girl, though race was never specified. She later came back into the spotlight for her video on cultural appropriation “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,” in which she makes a case for the need to address, educate, and stop the use of cultural appropriation in the media.
“When presented with the opportunity of doing something that is more mainstream but with a black girl and other black girls get to see that… it feels to me like if I can take those opportunities,” Stenberg said. “[I] take them because of the potential doors that it can open for a lot of young actors of color.”