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Netflix's Cleopatra director speaks out after series faces heavy criticism

Netflix's Cleopatra director speaks out after series faces heavy criticism

Adele James stars as Cleopatra in the upcoming series

The director behind Netflix's new series Queen Cleopatra has spoken out after it sparked backlash for its casting choices.

Set to be released on Netflix on 10 May, Queen Cleopatra features both expert interviews and reenactments to tell the story of Egypt's last pharaoh and the fight to protect her legacy.

Adele James, who is Black, takes on the role of the Egyptian Queen; a casting choice that prompted criticism from some who have accused the series of 'erasing' Egyptian identity.

One Egyptian lawyer has even filed a lawsuit against Netflix over the decision, requesting that legal action be taken against the creators of the show and that the streaming service should be shut down in Egypt, while other critics have made it so the trailer for Queen Cleopatra has become one of Netflix's most disliked trailers ever.

Now, director Tina Gharavi has hit back at the criticisms that have come flooding in with a new article written for Variety.

Gharavi, who took the role of director last year, recalled seeing Elizabeth Taylor play Cleopatra in the 1963 film and feeling as a child that the image was 'not right'.

Adele James called out those criticising the show. Credit Twitter/@Adele_JJames
Adele James called out those criticising the show. Credit Twitter/@Adele_JJames

"With this new production, could I find the answers about Cleopatra’s heritage and release her from the stranglehold that Hollywood had placed on her image?," she asked.

Noting that 'the chance of [Cleopatra] being white [was] somewhat unlikely', Gharavi began the hunt for 'the right performer' to play the queen.

She continued: "Why shouldn’t Cleopatra be a melanated sister? And why do some people need Cleopatra to be white? Her proximity to whiteness seems to give her value, and for some Egyptians it seems to really matter."

When it came to casting James, Gharavi felt she'd found an actor who 'could convey not only Cleopatra’s beauty, but also her strength'.

Noting that 'Cleopatra’s heritage has been attributed at one time or another to the Greeks, the Macedonians and the Persians', the director questioned whether the backlash was not just about her directing 'a series that portrays Cleopatra as Black'.

Instead, she wondered whether it was 'that I have asked Egyptians to see themselves as Africans, and they are furious at me for that'.

Gharavi questioned why there was such an issue with Cleopatra being depicted as Black.

"I am okay with this," she wrote.

Gharavi concluded: "So, was Cleopatra Black? We don’t know for sure, but we can be certain she wasn’t white like Elizabeth Taylor. We need to have a conversation with ourselves about our colorism, and the internalized white supremacy that Hollywood has indoctrinated us with."

"Most of all, we need to realize that Cleopatra’s story is less about her than it is about who we are," Gharavi concluded.

James herself has stood by the creators of the show, telling those who aren't happy with the casting choices not to watch it and adding: "I’M GASSED and will continue to be!’

Featured Image Credit: Netflix

Topics: Netflix, Film and TV, Celebrity