Charlie Hunnam has become one extremely sought-after actor, especially when it comes to gritty roles. In fact, he is so sought after for these types of roles that Youth Health Magazine reports the white British man has been cast to play the part of Edgar Valdez Villarreal in American Drug Lord, a man who, in real life, became La Barbie, the leader of a huge drug cartel.
While this might seem fine on the surface, because of course Charlie Hunnam can put on a superb accent and play a great tough guy, there has been an outcry about casting Hunnam as a character of Mexican descent. This is a particularly raw topic these days with the white Oscars issue at front and center stage. The initial report of the casting of Charlie Hunnam and reaction to it was published in a story in the Los Angeles Times, in a report which featured tweets in which people expressed their upset over the situation.
Charlie Hunnam as La Barbie in “American Drug Lord”. Who is gonna play El Chapo? Ben Affleck? https://t.co/0Yckucfxb6
— Maiah Ocando (@MaiahOcando) January 26, 2016
Hollywood’s WHITES ONLY problem: Charlie Hunnam Signs On To Portray Mexican Cartel Kingpin in ‘American Drug Lord’ | https://t.co/pmQg8izaUB
— Lalo Alcaraz (@laloalcaraz) January 24, 2016
Charlie Hunnam can play Mexican-American Edgar Valdez & Joseph Fiennes can play Michael Jackosn, but Idris Elba can’t play Bond?
— LaToya Allen (@HashtagLaToya) January 27, 2016
Hollywood: Quick to find Latinos to play drug dealers as background characters but will cast a white man for the lead / to play El Barbie.????
— Gladys (@UsagiMylene) January 27, 2016
Apparently, Charlie Hunnam was cast in the role because he resembles the cartel leader, who had blonde hair, light-colored skin, and green eyes.
Oh, you say Valdez Villarreal looked white? Well he certainly didn’t look like Charlie Hunnam. pic.twitter.com/BFIlShxlF8
— Kate Halliwell (@Kate__Halliwell) January 25, 2016
Producer Vincent Newman feels the outcry over the casting is ridiculous.
“It seems not well thought-through to be upset over casting an excellent actor to act as a character with whom he seems to share many physical resemblances. I suppose those offended by this would have disqualified Al Pacino from acting as Tony Montana or James Caan as Sonny Corleone. It’s acting after all, and the merit of the choice will be assessed as it is with all casting choices, on the quality and believability of his performance.”
— Marneus Calgar (@MarneusACalgar) January 25, 2016
However, Dr. Anna Ochoa O’Leary, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona, disagrees, saying that casting decisions like this have been happening for a long time in Hollywood and they are disrespectful.
“This has been happening in Hollywood for ages and it is sad to see that today, in 2016, there has been so little change. During the 1930s during the depression, when Mexicans were being scapegoated for America’s woes, the excuse that there was no Latino talent was used to substitute American/Anglo actors in roles that should have been given to Mexican Americans. Famous Mexican actresses working in Hollywood — Lupe Velez, Dolores del Rio — were only being offered roles as prostitutes and decided to leave. The good roles were then just given to non-Latino actors and actresses. This slight has been around for many years.”
Dr. Montana Miller, Associate Professor at the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University, agrees.
“I think it’s encouraging that people are speaking out against this kind of casting, and the more people voice their objections the less likely it will continue to be such an unspoken but normalized trend in Hollywood.”
As for Charlie Hunnam, while he hasn’t yet commented on the outrage at his being cast for the role of Edgar Valdez Villarreal, he has been seen out and about with his girlfriend, Morgana McNelis. Daily Mail reports the couple was seen out and about together last Saturday.
— JustJared.com (@JustJared) February 1, 2016
Apparently, there have been rumors that the two had broken up, but Parent Herald reports that Charlie Hunnam has laid those rumors to rest. The pair certainly seemed happy enough when they were out together on the weekend.
There is little doubt that Charlie Hunnam is just fine in the relationship department, but it will be interesting to see how he and producers of American Drug Lord react to the criticism they are receiving regarding the role of Valdez Villarreal.
[Photo by Frazer Harrison / Getty Images]