Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson will star in the film adaptation of Passing, based on the 1929 eponymous novel by Nella Larsen. The film will also be the directorial debut for Professor Marston and the Wonder Women actress Rebecca Hall.
As the title suggests, Passing deals with the practice of passing through racial lines to be accepted. Many lighter black people have passed as white to escape discrimination and subjugation. Thompson and Negga will play childhood friends in Harlem. In the book, the friends, Clare and Irene, are biracial, and Clare lives her life as a white woman married to a rich, white man.
It’s interesting that Hall would choose this film as her debut project. Hall herself has African-American ancestry as well as Dutch, Scottish and Sioux. Perhaps Hall’s experiences with race will translate into the film.
Hall commented on what Passing means to her and how making the film is allowing her to access parts of her racial history.
“Nella Larsen’s Passing is an astonishing book about two women struggling not just with what it meant to be black in America in 1929, but with gender conventions, the performance of femininity, the institution of marriage, the responsibilities of motherhood and the ways in which all of those forces intersect,” she said according to Deadline, adding that she found the novel “at a time when I was trying to reckon creatively with some of my personal family history, and the mystery surrounding my bi-racial grandfather on my American mother’s side.”
“In part, making this film is an exploration of that history, to which I’ve never really had access,” she said.
Angela Robinson is executive producing with Margo Hand and Oren Moverman as producers.
Hall appears next in Holmes and Watson starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Negga can currently be seen on FX’s Preacher. Thompson is currently starring in Sorry to Bother You and will be seen next in the upcoming Men in Black reboot.