As I was working on a follow up post to answer some of the questions and concerns of people reacting to my previous blog post about yellowface casting, I read Lucy Sheen’s smart piece about a related issue, which is seeing Asians not just as foreigners, but as part of the societies that they’re living in. (British, in her case.)

Lucy Sheen actor writer filmmaker adoptee

I had a very interesting conversation the other day with a friend and fellow actor. Amongst the things that we discussed apart from diversity and equality was authenticity of casting. The use of authenticity to justify a lack of diversity or willingness to diversify.

It is perfectly acceptable for Helen Mirren to have been cast in the role of Cleopatra and the public and critics all accept her as  “Egyptian.”  When in fact we now know that the reality and authenticity of the look for Cleopatra is far from what we readily accept on the UK stage.

Cleopatra was a woman of mixed racial heritage. She was Greek, but was raised in Egypt.

Mirren as Cleopatra NT 1988 Mirren as Cleopatra NT 1988

We don’t bat a collective eyelid when a Caucasian actress treads the boards as the famous queen. The acting maybe criticised, the set, the costumes, the choice of director, even the lighting…

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