Why Scarlett Johansson Is Mostly Right About Identity-Blind Casting

The Federalist | 7/15/2019 | David Marcus
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Scarlett Johansson is in hot water again after seeming to reverse her previous position on playing a transgender character. Last year, Johansson stepped down from the lead role (a trans-identifying man) in the movie “Rub and Tug” amid backlash from the left and transgender activists who argued that a trans actor must play the role. This week, in an interview for As If magazine, the megastar struck an entirely different tone.

She told the magazine that, “You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job.” She went on to say that, “I feel like it’s a trend in my business, and it needs to happen for various social reasons, yet there are times it does get uncomfortable when it affects the art because I feel art should be free of restrictions. Society would be more connected if we just allowed others to have their own feelings and not expect everyone to feel the way we do.”

Johansson - Actor - Job - Case - Someone

Johansson is largely correct here. The actor’s job in almost every case is to play someone or something that he or she is not. An actor studies the character he is meant to portray, almost always with an eye towards empathy, and striving to understand rather than judge, what drives a character’s actions. To say that an actor can only play himself, or someone very similar to himself, is an insult to the art form. Yet these questions can still be tricky.

As a theater producer whose company put up more than 300 short plays from 2001-2016, I’ve frequently encountered the question of color-blind, or identity-blind, casting. My approach followed a few simple rules. The first was to determine if the identifier(s) of the role in...
(Excerpt) Read more at: The Federalist
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