Gemma Chan Fires Back At Trolls For Her Bess of Hardwick Casting In 'Mary Queen of Scots'
"If John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, I can play Bess of Hardwick."
Gemma Chan Responds To Trolls Who Have An Issue With Her Role As Bess of Hardwick
In a world where it's acceptable for white actresses like Scarlet Johansson and Emma Stone nab lead roles as Asian characters, internet trolls still manage to find a way to spark controversy over Gemma Chan's supporting role as Bess of Hardwick in Mary Queen of Scots. In her Allure cover story, the Crazy Rich Asians star opened up about the "color-blind" casting in the 2018 film, which featured Saoirse Ronan and Magot Robbie as the leads.
While the historical drama covers an adaptation of the feud between Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I in the sixteenth century, Mary Queen of Scots was noted for its diverse cast, as people of color took on historically white roles. Chan was amongst them and was cast as Bess of Hardwick, the historically Caucasian advisor of Queen Elizabeth I.
Now in 2019, Chan reminisced on the internet trolls who didn't approve of her role as Bess because of her skin tone. And let me just tell you... she doesn't have time for that bulls**t.
In her interview with Allure, Chan pointed out the double standard and limitations of being a person of color in Hollywood.
"Why are actors of color, who have fewer opportunities anyway, only allowed to play their own race? And sometimes they're not even allowed to play their own race," Chan asked. "In the past, the role would be given to a white actor who would tape up their eyes and do the role in yellowface. John Wayne played Genghis Khan. If John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, I can play Bess of Hardwick."
Chan then explained that historical adaptations are told by our society today, and that should be reflected in the ethnicities and races in the cast, citing the Broadway hit, Hamilton.
"I feel like Hamilton opened minds a lot. We have a black man playing George Washington," Chan said. "They describe it as ‘America then, told by America now.' And I think our art should reflect life now."
Chan, who worked on a documentary about the Chinese Labour Corps in 2018, then explained that there are people of color who made huge impacts on our world's history, citing Chinese involvement in World War I.
"I studied the First World War three times at school. And I never heard that there were 140,000 Chinese in the Allied effort," Chan said. "We would not have won the war without them."
She also noted that there was a mural made with a section dedicated to the Chinese. However, it was later painted over after the American joined the war.
"They left one kneeling Chinese figure, which you can still see," Chan revealed. "If people understood that, my parents [might not] have been told, ‘Go home, go back to where you came from' multiple times. If we portray a pure white past, people start to believe that's how it was, and that's not how it was."
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