Earlier this week, we reported that Will Smith is slated to portray Richard Williams, the father of tennis titans Venus and Serena Williams, for a film titled King Richard. It’s safe to say this news didn’t boil over well online.
Criticism surrounding Smith’s casting flooded the internet immediately. Smith’s casting has been cited as a classic case of colorism. Many are criticizing the decision to cast Smith, a lighter-skinned Black man, as the choice to portray Richard Williams, a dark-skinned Black man. The criticism echoes the controversy surrounding the casting of Zoe Saldana in the role of Nina Simone. Last October, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was at the center of controversy when it was announced that he was slated to play Black American folk hero John Henry, a figure that has been depicted as dark-skinned, in an upcoming Netflix film, John Henry and the Statesmen.
Twitter relayed a variety of options for the role of Richard Williams, such as Michael K. Williams, two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and This Is Us fave Sterling K. Brown. There are many, many options when it comes to getting someone who has a resemblance to Williams.
This casting announcement isn’t even the first time that colorism has reared its head in the past few weeks. After the first trailer dropped for The Sun Is Also a Star, questions arose surrounding Yara Shahidi, who is not Jamaican, being cast as a Jamaican teen with dark-skinned parents.
Check out some of the Twitter responses to Smith’s casting below:
Colorism matters..love will Smith but there are other black actors for this role https://t.co/qrV1QuBiJH
— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) March 5, 2019
this is a no for me dawg pic.twitter.com/0FWlAA2DHl
— Clarkisha Kent: This One Lady (@IWriteAllDay_) March 5, 2019
Find dark skin people to play dark skin people!!!!
— afrogyal (@queenafroNAM) March 5, 2019
I’m sorry but were there not any dark skin male qualified actors available?
— Shaka Khookies (@Ms_Petty_Kakes) March 5, 2019
I think the best way to expand the prominence of black actors in cinema is to cast people of all different shades accurately. I love Will Smith but there has to be some brilliant darker skinned actors out there. Don’t just always recycle the “mainstream black guy” for every role.
— Olivia. (@OliveBlair_) March 5, 2019
Aye they could’ve gave this role to Mahershala Ali or Sterling K Brown. https://t.co/ww89er0eQa
— Dick Fitzinwell (@ovoxoliso) March 5, 2019
Michael K Williams
They coulda asked Orlando fuckin Jones and it woulda made more sense.
— john henry ???? (@unkleju) March 4, 2019
Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images, ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images