Charlie Hunnam has been cast to play the notorious drug kingpin, Edgar Valdez Villarreal. The problem is, Edgar is a Mexican-American, and many disapprove of Hunnam’s casting because of his race. Hollywood has been heavily criticized lately for casting white actors to play minorities in movies, and despite Hunnam’s immense acting talent, fans have reacted in a very negative way on Twitter, suggesting that the role should be recast with an actor who has real Latino roots.
I guess there aren’t many Mexican-American actors who could play a MexAm drug lord, so casting English actor Charlie Hunnam makes perf sense
— Julieta Colás (@jujujulieta) January 24, 2016
American actor Armie Hammer bought the rights to Villarreal’s life, with hopes to turn La Barbie’s story into a hit film. Edgar Valdez Villarreal happens to be one of El Chapo’s most famous rivals, and is one of the deadliest drug kingpins in history. Now that both drug cartel leaders are in police custody, there has been a real interest in the incredible lives men like these have led. Hammer has taken Villarreal’s story and turned it into a script, with Charlie Hunnam playing the lead. Given Hunnam’s amazing performance in Sons of Anarchy, there’s no question that he can pull off the violent role of Villarreal, but should he? If social media was consulted in the casting of American Drug Lord, there’s a pretty good chance that Charlie would not have been given that role.
After Twitter erupted, some are wondering if Charlie Hunnam will reconsider and back out of the controversial role. We still haven’t forgotten that Hunnam was slated to play Christian Grey in the 50 Shades of Grey movie, but backed out because fans heavily criticized whether Charlie would be a good fit for to play the lead in the erotica novel-turned-film. Hunnam’s reluctance to play Grey had nothing to do with race, either. The 50 Shades character from the E.L. James just didn’t seem rough enough for Hunnam to play the role, so the British actor backed out. Well, Twitter has made it very clear that Hunnam isn’t Mexican enough (or at all) to fill the shoes of La Barbie. Despite that criticism, Hunnam has been spotted in Laredo, Texas, doing research for his new, controversial role.
— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) January 28, 2016
Critics of Charlie Hunnam’s casting to play the role of a Mexican-American are citing an epidemic of whitewashing in Hollywood and it’s really hard to argue that there isn’t a problem. Hollywood has a history of casting white actors to play the roles of minorities, and just recently, social media showed a huge disapproval when Joseph Fiennes was cast to play Michael Jackson in an upcoming movie.
Villarreal was referred to as La Barbie because he has a light complexion, blonde hair and blue eyes. It shouldn’t be hard for Charlie Hunnam to take on the look of Villarreal, considering they already look a lot alike, but that isn’t the reason many are upset. Despite a long history of Hollywood casting white actors in major roles, whether Hunnam looks like Villarreal or not, this is still the case of an English actor given the part of a Texas-native with a Mexican heritage. Isn’t it possible that Legendary Pictures could have found a minority actor to fill the role?
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) January 25, 2016
April Reign is the creator of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, and often speaks out about the epidemic of whitewashing in Hollywood. April spoke out after the hashtag started trending because like many others, she believes Hollywood isn’t taking minority actors seriously enough. “From the very start, don’t just assume that a white man or woman can play a particular role,” Reign said. “Open your minds to exploring the same film with a different person.”
With all the backlash over white actors playing minorities in film, Charlie Hunnam is set to play the lead in American Drug Lord. Charlie isn’t even American, and he certainly isn’t Mexican-American. That’s not saying that Hunnam can’t do a great job filling the role. When Hunnam played Jax Taylor in Sons of Anarchy, many didn’t even know he was British until he appeared on talk shows. It was then that we realized our bad boy, Jax, wasn’t really bad at all. Can Hunnam pull off a similar feat in his new role? Would it even matter if Charlie Hunnam’s performance in American Drug Lord was the best of his career? Check out what 80Twelve has to say about the whitewashing of Hollywood here.
The bottom line is that film fans are speaking out about the casting of Charlie Hunnam, and the Hollywood mindset that minority actors are not bankable in leading roles. La Flama argued that Santiago Cabrera, James Roday, or William Levy should have been considered for the American Drug Lord role before Hunnam. Their suggestion of former Mexican soap star Diego Boneta to play Edgar Valdez Villarreal is by far our favorite. As far as the argument that Villarreal was fair-skinned with blue eyes and blonde hair, does that mean casting Hunnam was a must? Those features can easily be altered on an actor with real Latino roots. So, in the midst of all the controversy surrounding the casting of Hunnam and the obvious lack of minority actors landing large roles, why not cast as authentically as possible for the lead role?
As far as the argument that Villarreal was fair-skinned with blue eyes and blonde hair, those features can easily be altered on an actor with real Latino roots. Using Villarreal’s look to argue the validity of Charlie Hunnam taking on the role still ignores the fact that a British man has been cast to play the part of a man with Mexican roots. So in the midst of all the controversy surrounding the obvious lack of minority actors, why not cast as authentically as possible for the lead role in the life story of a Mexican-American drug lord? It has been pointed out that if Idris Elba can’t play the role of James Bond, then why can Charlie Hunnam play Villarreal as well as other white actors in Hollywood who are continuously cast to play minority roles?
The choice to cast Charlie Hunnam as Mexican-American Drug Lord Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal bothers me. pic.twitter.com/E11VJeHuMd
— Amanda Salinas (@AmandaOnFOX7) January 28, 2016
Do you think Charlie Hunnam should have been cast as the lead in American Drug Lord? Should Hunnam step down, given the amount of backlash for the casting or continue on and try to prove the critics wrong?
[Photo by Jacopo Raule/Getty Images]