Visibility in Hollywood has become a hot button issue. Following last year's #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the subject of diversity and proper representation in TV and movies has become a conversation in both the industry and with audiences at home. Many feel that producers, writers, and casting professionals should make more of an effort to feature characters that aren't exclusively white men. It's important that communities feel represented in the media, and the Star Wars franchise seems to have taken major steps toward this goal. Star Wars: The Force Awakens starred a woman and two men of color, and the upcoming standalone movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story features the most diverse cast of actors the galaxy far, far away has ever seen.
Pakistani- British actor Riz Ahmed (HBO's The Night Of) is one of the scrappy group of rebels fighting The Empire in Rogue One. He recently spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the film, where he revealed how he feels the franchise is making positive steps toward inclusion. Ahmed said the following,
I feel like Star Wars is leading the way. I like to think we are all heading in this direction. Some people are kicking and screaming or dragging their feet. Some people are sprinting. It's really a credit to [Lucasfilm president] Kathleen Kennedy and the team there that they want to embrace the future and the reality of a global film market. It feels contemporary, it feels global. Culture is a space for us to put ourselves in someone else's shoes, so why don't we just have as many different kinds of shoes as possible?
Riz Ahmed makes some solid points about both inclusion and the filmmaking world in general. Let's break down exactly what he's getting at.
To start, it's clear that Star Wars is ready to be as inclusive as possible. While the prequels and the original trilogy are both decidedly white and male in regards to casting, The Force Awakens marked a change.
This is partly due to director J.J. Abrams, who has been open about his feeling towards inclusion and diversity in the franchise and beyond. As such, the trio of new leads are much more diverse than we've seen in the franchise. Rey ended up being the true badass Jedi of the group, empowering women and challenging the idea that female characters don't sell toys. Additionally, Oscar Isaac and John Boyega come from Guatemalan and Nigerian backgrounds, allowing black and latino moviegoers to see themselves reflected in the franchise.
The old Hollywood fear was that international audiences wouldn't be thrilled about seeing mixed casts. But this has been proven to be untrue, shattering the excuse and allowing room for more diversity in blockbusters. Case in point: Rogue One, which features a female lead and a diverse cast of actors.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will fly into theaters December 16h, 2016.