The Right One Director Discusses ‘Organically Diverse’ Casting

Cleopatra Coleman in The Right One

When I was a kid, I didn’t see a whole lot of Black people on film and television unless the show was about a Black family or the movie was a historical piece. Hollywood has grown leaps and bounds over the years, but I still don’t think I’ll ever stop getting excited about diversity. The Right One has me particularly excited, and the writer/director explained how he achieved organically diverse casting in this film.

The Right One stars an interracial couple, but that is not the focus of the film. It’s never even discussed, it simply is, which to me is amazing. Beyond that, there are so many different kinds of people represented throughout the film in every single scene. Seriously, I found myself saying, “there’s another one!” multiple times so of course I had to talk to Ken Mok about this when I got to interview him for CinemaBlend. He was very intentional with the casting of this film, and here’s what he said:

You’ll notice the film from the principal cast all the way down to the background extras, it’s very diverse. I had very specific messages that I was giving to my casting directors, not only on the principal side, but also on the extra side. I had to actually break down with the extras director, I said, this is the percentage of people that you want, which are going to be Caucasian, Asian, African American, Latino, etc. you really want a good mix in there. And I cast all the extras. I cast all the principals. I really wanted the film to feel organically diverse, not in your face, but ‘oh, when I’m watching the film, it feels like the world I live in.’ I’m very proud of that, and that’s something I’m always very, very conscious about.

Can we get a standing ovation for Ken Mok? If you’re a fellow person of color you understand, and for everyone else just know that this is the dream. Inclusivity in a way that isn’t saying, here’s a film made by a specific group for a specific group and starting that specific group, but instead telling a story that has absolutely nothing to do with any specific group and just including as many kinds of people as possible so everyone can have a chance to see themselves on the screen when they watch.

It hits differently when you watch something and think to yourself, “that could be me. I could do that.” I think I look a little bit like The Right One’s leading lady, Cleopatra Coleman, so that was another exciting thing when I watched the film. Her reaction when I shared this with her was the coolest because she understood my energy. Here’s what she told me:

That makes me so happy to hear. That’s what I want, because I didn’t get that. I didn’t see myself on TV. But it didn’t stop me [from getting into acting]. If anything, it motivated me more, and that’s why I write. There is still work to do when it comes to diversity, and I want different groups of people being represented and seeing themselves in the stories I tell… It’s refreshing [that this film stars an interracial couple] because it’s there but it’s not the focus. They don’t have to talk about it. The characters and their journeys and their relationship are the focus.

To have people in the business like Cleopatra Coleman and Ken Mok who are actively thinking about how to increase representation in all of their projects is exactly what we need. Ken Mok also elaborated on his own experience and why diversity on set is so important to him with the following:

When I was growing up in this country, there was no representation of Asian people on TV or film, like zero. And so what happens is that if you’re a person of color, you become very aware of that. You notice things like right away. One of the things I noticed because I couldn’t find anybody who looked like me, was the extras. Any movie I watched or TV show, I watched the extras trying to see if there’s somebody that looks like me, even in the background. And so if you say this to a person of color, they’ll really understand that, especially of a certain generation. So I knew that when I entered my profession that as a producer or the writer or director, I would really pay attention to diversity because I want my projects to reflect the real world the way the real world is.

The Right One is a movie to love all around. It’s a light-hearted romantic comedy released at a time where we can all use more laughs. It’s not a cliched romantic comedy and has a darker subject matter that will leave you questioning life, but still leave you with warm fuzzy feelings. And it reflects the real world the way it is. The Right One is now available on demand, on digital, and in select theaters.

Samantha LaBat

Obsessed with Hamilton and most things Disney. Gets too attached to TV show characters. Loves a good thriller, but will only tolerate so much blood.