Tina Fey predicted the backlash about Whiskey Tango Foxtrot controversial casting choices, and not only did she see it coming, she tried to prevent it. As she stated in a recent interview with The New York Times, she told the casting directors that “the only person – the only person! – who’s going to get in trouble for this is me” – which has of course turned out to be true.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this recent controversy, I’ll run through it quickly. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has received a hefty amount of criticism online for casting a British actor Alfred Molina and an American actor Christopher Abbott as Afghans – two of the film’s most pivotal characters.
In a conversation with reporter Melena Ryzik, Fey was asked how involved she was in the casting process. Since she had expected a fair amount of (understandable) criticism, Fey knew where the conversation was going. “I had a lot of say. If your next question is, why is Chris Abbott not Afghan? – I did beg [the casting directors], ‘Guys, my preference would be a native speaker,’” Fey explained.
“They pleaded their case that Chris [was] their choice,” she continued, adding that the “tricky thing is, Afghans [can be] Caucasians”. “Do you really like this guy?” she recalled saying, before making it perfectly clear to the casting directors that she would ultimately be the person held responsible for the decision.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is the most recent film to come under fire for its questionable casting choices. Last year, both Cameron Crowe’s Aloha in which Emma Stone portrayed a character of Chinese and Hawaiian descent, and Pan in which Rooney Mara was cast as a Native American character, came under no small amount of fire.
Following the heated backlash last year, Stone said that she had “learned on a macro level about the insane history of whitewashing in Hollywood and how prevalent the problem truly is,” adding that “It’s ignited a conversation that’s very important”.
Mara recently opened up about Pan and whitewashing, saying that “I really hate, hate, hate that I am on that side of the whitewashing conversation, I really do. I don’t ever want to be on that side of it again. I can understand why people were upset and frustrated”.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has revealed how prevalent a problem whitewashing in Hollywood is, and has proven that Hollywood is stuck in a harmful rut where a film needs a fair share of successful white actors on its cast list before it can reach production and ultimately its audience.