Netflix’s upcoming docudrama “Queen Cleopatra,” featuring Britain’s Adele James portraying the first-century Egyptian ruler with African roots, is causing controversy in Egypt.
- James Wan Confronts ‘Aquaman 2’ Reshoot Rumors and Amber Heard Claiming Her Role Was ‘Pared Down’: The Sequel Never Prioritized Mera
- How ’Bad Sisters,’ ‘The Diplomat’ Shot in Tourist Landmarks for Maximum Effect
- Alfonso Cuaron, Terry Gilliam Join Wes Anderson, Alexander Payne, Wim Wenders in a Star Director Lumiere Festival Lineup (EXCLUSIVE)
- David Letterman’s ‘Airplane!’ Audition Was So Terrible the Crew Went Up to Him and Said, ‘You Can’t Act!’: ‘I Laughed My Way Back to the Car’
- ‘Haunting in Venice’ Producer Talks More Poirot Movies, Tina Fey’s Transatlantic Dream Role
Egyptian academics argue that Cleopatra, born in Alexandria in 69 BC and part of a Greek-speaking dynasty, was of European descent and not Black. A complaint has been filed by an Egyptian lawyer, urging legal actions to block Netflix entirely in Egypt to prevent the show from airing. The complaint alleges that the docudrama, scheduled to release on May 10, violates the country’s media laws.
Netflix has not provided an immediate comment.
In reference to the casting of Adele James as Cleopatra, Jada Pinkett Smith, the show’s executive producer, was quoted on Netflix’s promotional website Tudum in February. She mentioned that given the ongoing debate about the queen’s heritage, the casting choice serves as “a nod to the centuries-long conversation about the ruler’s race.”
“We don’t often get to see or hear stories about Black queens, and that was really important for me, as well as for my daughter, and just for my community to be able to know those stories because there are tons of them!,” she noted.
While there is no dispute among scholars that Cleopatra was Macedonian-Greek on her father Ptolemy XII’s side, the ethnic origin of her mother is unknown. Some historians suggest the possibility that Cleopatra’s mother was African, and thus, she could have been of mixed heritage.
The recent trailer release for “Queen Cleopatra” has stirred controversy in Egypt. Zahi Hawass, a prominent Egyptologist, strongly disputed the idea that Cleopatra was of mixed race, stating, “This is completely fake. Cleopatra was Greek, meaning that she was light-skinned, not Black,” as reported by the al-Masry al-Youm newspaper.
In response to critics, actor Adele James took to Twitter, stating, “If you don’t like the casting, don’t watch the show.”
Debates regarding the portrayal of Cleopatra on screen are not a recent phenomenon. Earlier plans for a film, initially directed by Patty Jenkins and featuring Israeli actor Gal Gadot as the iconic Egyptian queen, sparked controversy. Critics argued that it was time for the role to be cast with an Arab or African actor. Notably, the movie has not been produced.