‘Romeo & Juliet’ Costar Francesca Amewudah-Rivers Casting Sparks Racist Remarks: Over 900 Black Actors Step In To Support Her

by Grace Somes
Francesca Amewudah-Rivers || Image credit: @franarivers

Following Amewudah-Rivers’ casting announcement, there was a fierce online backlash, prompting the Jamie Lloyd Company to issue a statement on social media earlier this month condemning a “barrage of deplorable racial abuse online directed towards a member of our company.”

Amewudah-Rivers has faced vile online abuse since her casting as the female lead was announced in February.

The most popular tweet in the onslaught featured photos of Amewudah-Rivers and Holland next to an image of Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes from Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, with the caption “they are rewriting history before our very eyes.”

However, Black theatre-makers and commentators were quick to point out that Shakespeare’s plays are fiction, not history, and that actors of various ethnicities and genders have played the characters in many of Shakespeare’s plays since the 1800s.

In response to the online harassment, hundreds of Black performers issued a letter of solidarity this week, condemning the digital abuse and expressing their support for Amewudah-Rivers and other Black female performers who have faced harsh criticism.

“The racist and misogynistic abuse directed at such a sweet soul has been too much to bear. For a casting announcement of a play to ignite such twisted, ugly abuse is truly embarrassing for those so empty and barren in their own lives that they must meddle in hateful abuse. Too many times, Black performers – particularly Black actresses – are left to face the storm of online abuse after committing the crime of getting a job on their own,” the letter read. 


The letter was organized by actor Susan Wokoma (best known for her work in Chewing Gum and Enola Holmes) and playwright Somalia Nonyé Seaton. Its 883 signatories include Lashana Lynch (Marvel Cinematic Universe, No Time to DieOne Love), Sheila Atim (The Woman King), Marianne Jean-Baptiste (The Book of Clarence), Lolly Adefope (Saltburn), Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who), and Wunmi Mosaku (Loki and Lovecraft Country).

Last week, the “Romeo & Juliet” producer, Jamie Lloyd Company, stated in response to the negative reactions, pleading to end the criticism. At the time, the company statement did not mention Amewudah-Rivers by name.

“Following the announcement of our ‘Romeo & Juliet’ cast, there has been a barrage of deplorable racial abuse online directed towards a member of our company.

“This must stop.”

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