Actors, artists react to casting white actor as Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nov 12, 2015

"Annie" Cast Photo Call

Director Will Gluck and Actors Bobby Cannavale, Quvenzhane Wallis, Sandy the Dog, Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx attend ‘Annie’ Cast Photo Call at Crosby Street Hotel.; Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

The playwright of “The Mountaintop,” a play about Martin Luther King Jr. immediately preceding his assassination, is incensed that a Kent University amateur director intentionally included a white actor in the role of King.

Writing in the, Katori Hall who’s African American, explains, “Black writers dedicated to using black bodies, who remain at the center of a devalued narrative, are committing a revolutionary act. We are using theater to demand a witnessing.”

Hall reached out to the student director, Michael Oatman who’s African American, who told her “I wanted to see if a white actor, or a light-skinned actor, had the same cultural buy-in and could portray Dr. King.”

How does this scenario fit in with “non-traditional casting” – a movement created for inclusion of performers of color?


Joanna Merlin, Actor and Co-founder of The Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts (formerly the Non-Traditional Casting project created in 1986); Merlin also teaches in the graduate acting program of New York University; Her past roles include “The Good Wife,” “Law & Order,” “The Killing Fields,” “The Ten Commandments,” and more

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