A friend of mine told me he was surprised that I was okay with the casting of a black actor in the role of Louis de Pointe du Lac for the upcoming INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE series for AMC (the role will be performed by Jacob Anderson of GAME OF THRONES, who will be paired with Sam Reid as Lestat) knowing how much I despise tokenism. I countered that he, being familiar with my embracing of blind casting in my Theatre work, shouldn’t have been surprised at all, and besides, I don’t see this as a case of tokenism.
Let’s clarify some nomenclature. “Tokenism” is when you cast a person of a specific ethnicity just for the sake of casting a non-white. It smacks of cheapness, a stunt, and it’s inherently racist. “Blind casting” means that the skin pigmentation of the performer is irrelevant to the role he is playing. The actor may be black, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the character is black. Think of Denzel Washington in Kenneth Branagh’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING for the perfect example. I favor blind casting. I detest tokenism.
So why do I not consider casting Anderson as Louis a case of tokenism? (It isn’t blind casting either, for the record.) The character in the novels is, after all, a white dude. It’s like this: the perfect adaptation of the book already exists, in the movie. Brad Pitt’s Louis is the Louis from the book. Why would they want to do a retread of the movie? If they’re gonna retell the story, they *should* do some things differently. Having such an opportunity, then, to play with the formula a little, why would they *not* consider casting a black dude as Louis? It’s only tokenism if you force such a casting choice when it doesn’t fit, when there is no recognizable opportunity for such a move. Square peg meets round hole, yadda yadda yadda. Here, with this new series, such opportunity existed. They took it. I’m fine with it.