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Modern interpretation vs. historical whiteness

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CB27
1383452.  Fri Jun 18, 2021 11:31 am Reply with quote

barbados wrote:
Thats a bit of a problem - how would it look if Lenny Henry ( a much better actor than comedian in my mind) were to play the role of Frost / Nixon? Would people ask questions about the choice of actor? As you say, it isn’t as if David Frost is famous for being white it it?

Finally, an example of someone who isn't famous for their skin colour.

Ignoring the folks of Tunbridge Wells for a moment, and concerning your own view, my question is, would it take anything away from the story if someone like Lenny Henry played either characters?

 
PDR
1383457.  Fri Jun 18, 2021 12:19 pm Reply with quote

I saw Lenny Henry in an excellent production of Educating Rita a few years ago. I don't think his portrayal was in any way affected by him not being a scouser.

PDR

 
barbados
1383477.  Sat Jun 19, 2021 2:56 am Reply with quote

CB27 wrote:
barbados wrote:
Thats a bit of a problem - how would it look if Lenny Henry ( a much better actor than comedian in my mind) were to play the role of Frost / Nixon? Would people ask questions about the choice of actor? As you say, it isn’t as if David Frost is famous for being white it it?

Finally, an example of someone who isn't famous for their skin colour.

Ignoring the folks of Tunbridge Wells for a moment, and concerning your own view, my question is, would it take anything away from the story if someone like Lenny Henry played either characters?

No, but then (for me) it wouldn’t take anything away fron the story if Oprah Winfrey was portrayed by Renee Zellweger.
But you seem to be missing the important part, the suggestion was that in the case of historical characters there would be those that rely on the character being true even if it is a work of fiction, and “the folks of Tunbridge Wells” would be part of the “those” who would see a problem.

 
barbados
1383478.  Sat Jun 19, 2021 3:02 am Reply with quote

PDR wrote:
I saw Lenny Henry in an excellent production of Educating Rita a few years ago. I don't think his portrayal was in any way affected by him not being a scouser.

PDR

Not being a scouser would only improve a performance- however the scouser was Rita White and not Frank Bryant so why would he have needed to be a scouser? Even to appease the “folk of Tunbridge Wells”

 
PDR
1383482.  Sat Jun 19, 2021 3:32 am Reply with quote

In the original play both played as liverpudlians (albeit Julie Walters as working class and Mark Kingston as middle class) - it was only in the film that the lecturer became a southerner. But Lashana Lynch (the actor who played Rita in this version) wasn't a scouser either.

PDR

 
barbados
1383486.  Sat Jun 19, 2021 4:07 am Reply with quote

I’ve been to sleep since I last read it - but wasn’t Bryant just a character with no specifics as to his family history?

 
Jenny
1383509.  Sat Jun 19, 2021 11:01 am Reply with quote

PDR wrote:
I saw Lenny Henry in an excellent production of Educating Rita a few years ago. I don't think his portrayal was in any way affected by him not being a scouser.

PDR


But given that the play is a work of fiction, and the ethnicity of the teacher isn't part of the drama, and nor is his place of origin (even though that featured in the original production there aren't, IIRC, references to it in the text, which in a work of fiction is the only thing that matters), the ethnicity of any of the actors really doesn't matter.

However, that's a different issue from casting somebody as a known historical figure, where there is almost bound to be something jarring about a portrayal that departs from what is known as historical fact. If we are presented with it as an alternative-universe scenario it's less jarring, but given historical realities it's hard to imagine a scenario in which the ethnicity of a historical character doesn't have an impact on what happened in his or her life, so a storyline that ignores that feels odd.

 
barbados
1383548.  Sun Jun 20, 2021 9:08 am Reply with quote

I think, Rita is indeed a scouser, but there is no reference to Bryant - although bieng based in Liverpool, it is not beyond the realms of possibility to assume that is also where he hails from.

 
crissdee
1383551.  Sun Jun 20, 2021 9:17 am Reply with quote

I only ever saw the film, and that was a long time ago, but I don't recall the "Scouse" aspect of it being that important. Wasn't more about that fact that Rita had relatively poor, working-class roots, and was not the sort to go to university (in those days at least). She could just have well come from Brum, Manchester, Basildon, Chatham, or a hundred other "deprived" areas.

 
Jenny
1383557.  Sun Jun 20, 2021 9:48 am Reply with quote

That's how I saw it Crissdee - essentially a class rather than a regional issue. Willy Russell came from near Liverpool, but the words Liverpool or scouse don't appear anywhere in the text of the play (at any rate the movie version, even though Rita was played with a Liverpool accent).

http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/e/educating-rita-script-transcript-caine.html

 
barbados
1383558.  Sun Jun 20, 2021 10:12 am Reply with quote

According to Wiily Russel, the story is set in Liverpool
Quote:
About a working class hairdresser from Liverpool, who broadens her horizons by studying English Literature at the Open University, Rita was funny, moving, smart, yet accessible.

That is something that wouldn’t appear in the script, but would be in the play as written by Russell

 
Jenny
1383615.  Mon Jun 21, 2021 9:42 am Reply with quote

That quote is not by Russell himself but from an article by Lorne Jackson on Willy Russel's website.

I repeat - the words 'Liverpool' and 'scouse' don't appear in the text. In a work of literature, it's the text that counts. It wouldn't matter where they actually came from - it's the class differential that is at the heart of this.

You'll note these quotes from Russell at the end of that article - his words in italics:

Quote:
Characters and scenes were added when it was expanded into a movie.

However, it lost Mark Kingston, the stage actor who played the original Frank. He was replaced by the more marketable Michael Caine.

During an early stage of negotiations with movie bigwigs, there was even pressure to replace Walters with Dolly Parton.

Caine’s role would have gone to Paul Newman, with the movie relocated to the States.

“Actually that would have been brilliant casting for a movie set in America,” says Russell.

“I’m a fantastic fan of Dolly Parton. She’s a great writer, a sublime singer.

‘‘She’s a terrific actress, and she comes from the only really white American equivalent of working-class Britain.

“So it wasn’t as bizarre as it might have sounded.

 
Jenny
1383616.  Mon Jun 21, 2021 9:43 am Reply with quote

Actually, it would be interesting to see a black production of this, set in the USA, or one with an educated black woman in the role of Frank and a working class white guy in the role of Rita, though I guess the title would have to change!

 
barbados
1383622.  Mon Jun 21, 2021 10:20 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
Actually, it would be interesting to see a black production of this, set in the USA, or one with an educated black woman in the role of Frank and a working class white guy in the role of Rita, though I guess the title would have to change!

It would be more interesting if the names hadn't been changed in the text and he stuck with the story as it was based.
Then it would have been called Educating Willy - which is probably where the Liverpool connection comes in.

 
dr.bob
1383664.  Tue Jun 22, 2021 5:56 am Reply with quote

CB27 wrote:
So when people objected to him playing Gandhi I think it was a reflection of believing him to be a British WASP in every way.


It'll be interesting to see what objections there were. The link that Jenny posted upthread seemed to take umbrage at the fact that Kingsley was British. Given the main accomplishment of Gandhi was to fight against the British, that's an understandable objection.

However, the point I'm interested in is the fact that Kingsley was mixed race. In that respect, I see little difference in casting Kingsley as Gandhi and casting Halle Berry as Queen Elizabeth II.

To white British people the former seems OK, dare I say on the basis that "he's a bit brown, so that's probably OK." The latter would cause ructions, doubtless because "she's a bit brown".

It'd be interesting to know if native Indians regard Kingsley as too white to play Gandhi, or if black Africans would consider Halle Berry "white enough" to play Liz2. It may simply come down to a matter of perspective.

 

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