"If John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, I can play Bess of Hardwick"
Gemma Chan has defended playing a white character in Mary Queen Of Scots.
In the upcoming film starring Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth I, Chan plays the queen’s confidante Bess of Hardwick.
When news that Chan, who is British Chinese, is playing the English historical figure, she instantly faced a backlash.
“Why are actors of color, who have fewer opportunities anyway, only allowed to play their own race? And sometimes they’re not even allowed to play their own race,” Chan says. “In the past, the role would be given to a white actor who would tape up their eyes and do the role in yellowface. John Wayne played Genghis Khan. If John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, I can play Bess of Hardwick.”
Chan added that this was not the first time a POC was playing a white historical character, pointing towards Hamilton.
“I feel like Hamilton opened minds a lot,” the Crazy Rich Asians star said. “We have a black man playing George Washington. They describe it as ‘America then, told by America now.’ And I think our art should reflect life now.”
The 36-year-old actress went on to say that our history is not purely white anyway.
“If we portray a pure white past, people start to believe that’s how it was, and that’s not how it was. If people understood that, my parents might not have been told, ‘Go home, go back to where you came from’ multiple times.”
In other news, Chan recently revealed that her law degree from Oxford University was useful in her acting career.