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​​Why Denzel Washington’s Macbeth Felt It Was Important To Bring In A Slew Of Black Actors

Denzel Washington The Tragedy of Macbeth trailer screenshot
(Image credit: A24)

Representation, both on stage and screen, is a frontier that we’ve seen continually revolutionized in the modern era of entertainment. For director Joel Coen and star Denzel Washington’s Shakespearean production The Tragedy of Macbeth, it was important to bring in a slew of Black actors who could further diversify the cast of this latest retelling. The reasons for that importance was both in the name of increased accessibility to the material and to keep future generations on the path to do even more. 

Variety recently reported on quotes from Denzel Washington himself, as well as his co-stars In The Heights’ Corey Hawkins, The Queen’s Gambit’s Moses Ingram and The Good Fight’s Sean Patrick Thomas, from events and interviews surrounding the release of the Apple Original Film. On the more technical side of things, the increased representation of Black actors in Shakespeare is what Denzel Washington cites as the reason for casting actors like Hawkins, Ingram, and Thomas in The Tragedy of Macbeth. In his own words, the Academy Award winner and veteran of tangling with The Bard’s words sees the opportunity as a repayment to those who came before him: 

They’re classically trained, like I was classically trained. Like Paul Robeson was classically trained before me. Like James Earl Jones was classically trained. Like I watched James Earl Jones and Robeson, and not that they’re watching me, but I’m in that position now, and now it’s their turn.

With Denzel Washington playing Lord Macbeth himself alongside Francis McDormand’s Lady Macbeth, this new retelling has already struck a blow for that very cause. But bringing in Corey Hawkins and Moses Ingram as Lord and Lady Macduff, as well as Sean Patrick Thomas as Monteith, allows the next generation of Black actors to do what Washington feels he’s done with his own performances. To that effect, Ms. Ingram spoke from her own experiences and provided a very similar call to that of Denzel Washington: 

I remember feeling that Shakespeare wasn’t for me, for somebody who looked like me. But I think it’s important to see people of all ages in different colors, tapping into the stories that look like the world that we live in. If we can get past the barrier of the language, we’ll find that a lot of it is very timely.

As Mr. Washington turns his focus to more passion projects in this era of his career, it looks like he’ll be working with more Shakespearean material in the future. That sounds like it means more Black actors of all ages will be drafted to help bring those classic works to life in a way that can reach a wider audience of spectators. It’s another opportunity to pave the way for even more actors of all ethnicities to approach such projects, providing a vital current of change in an industry that’s trying to move in the right direction.

The Tragedy of Macbeth is currently in limited theatrical release, with its Apple TV+ streaming debut set for January 14, 2022. To see what the theatrical competition will look like on that particular day, you can head over to the 2022 release schedule and check out what looks to be the greatest threat to The Scottish Play. Last, but not least, Denzel Washington fans can see his latest directorial effort, A Journal for Jordan, as it’s currently playing at a theater near you

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.