Last month we talked about the smoking-hot shortlist for the female lead of the upcoming Han Solo spinoff. The list was made up of Tessa Thompson, Zoe Kravitz, and Fantastic Beasts’ Naomi Scott. The character in question was being kept secret, because that’s how Disney rolls, but most of the internet (myself included) was banking pretty hard on the hypothesis that these women were up for the role of Sana Starros, Han’s wife by way of caper-based technicality. That made sense because of Han’s backstory, and, let’s face it, there aren’t that many roles in the Star Wars galaxy for a woman of color.
That WOC bit went right out the window today, though, when it was announced that Emilia Clarke would be joining the movie. Is your first thought at that news, “AWESOME!” Tessa Thompson (because at least my mind had put her at the front of that shortlist and tricked me into forgetting she wasn’t actually cast yet) AND Daenerys in one movie? How cool!
Yeah, that would be cool. Except, despite Disney and Star Wars’ giant leaps forward in their casting women and POC in lead roles, when it comes to female leads, it’s still pretty much an either/or, not an and situation. Emilia Clarke hasn’t been cast as a different character; she got the role she wasn’t even reportedly shortlisted for.
“Selma” and “Creed” star Tessa Thompson, “Power Rangers” actress Naomi Scott, and Zoe Kravitz read for the female lead in October. Another group, which included Clarke, “Dope’s” Kiersey Clemons, fellow “Thrones” actress Jessica Henwick, and “Emerald City” star Adria Arjona tested in London. Clarke ultimately landed the role.
Look, I know a white lady complaining about white lady stuff is, to use a favorite white lady word, problematic. But holy shit can we stop having shortlists with six women of color and one Emilia Clarke and have the role ALWAYS go to Emilia Clarke? Can we stop pretending like this is acceptable? Like, “oh well, she was clearly best for the role.” I’m sure there are a lot of roles she is best for, the most qualified actress. (And we don’t even need to get into the fact that pretty much everything she’s been in besides Game of Thrones has been panned and maybe there’s a chance she’s less a great actor and more great eyebrows edited into striking, emotional performances— WE DON’T EVEN NEED TO GET INTO THAT.)
Can we please just stop pretending like it’s a coincidence that six WOC get passed over for the one white woman who wasn’t even announced as being on the shortlist?