Top 10 White Actors Playing Ethnic Characters
Who's saying what
As opposed to your standard whitewashing or racebending narrative (e.g. 21, which replaces Asian characters with white ones), there's nothing more cringeworthy than seeing an actor play to racial type.
Rumour has it Selena Gomez will be playing ultimate rich white girl Charlotte York in the SATC prequel The Carrie Diaries, but what really has everyone talking is Cloud Atlas, which has inexplicably decided to revive yellowface and cast just about everyone in it as someone of another ethnicity.
People were up in arms when they discovered the Texan Renee Zellweger was going to play chain-smoking Brit Bridget Jones, but do we find it anywhere near as offensive when actors change their appearance to resemble someone of another ethnicity? Here’s some memorable oh-no-they-didn’t moments in cinema.
10. Yul Brynner, The King and I
This is a nice, feel good film for the most part, and as far as romantic musicals go, you can do worse than Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner awkwardly sparring with each other. If it was made today, you just know there’d be angry sex at some point.
As it was made when films tended to be more family friendly, they just do a lot of dancing, and arguing. But really, you spend two hours or so wondering how the casting meeting ran: make him someone who looks fierce, and can have a heavy accent!
Yul Brynner is a Russian-born American actor. He’s not from Thailand, and he’s not the King of Siam.
9. Anthony Hopkins, The Human Stain
OK, so the character played by Anthony Hopkins is supposed to be a very light-skinned black man, but … yeah, no. They have Wentworth Miller (pre-Prison Break) playing him as a young guy and you can totally buy it. But Hopkins can’t pull it off, which is annoying mainly because the entire revolves around the crucial point that he’s a black man passing himself off as white.
The end result: a story about a pompous white professor who wants to bonk Nicole Kidman.
8. Jake Gyllenhaal, The Prince of Persia
We all like Jake Gyllenhaal, and his sister Maggie, because they’re cool, and as far as Hollywood goes, you don’t see a lot of siblings both do well and support each other etc and so on. But this is just lazy casting. I don’t care how good he looks (he has abs), or how bad the movie is (just watch the trailer). This is The Prince of Persia – not Staten Island, or wherever he’s from. This should’ve been easy enough casting – just don’t hire a white actor to play a Persian. It’s not like there aren’t any Persian-looking guys who can pull it off, right?