Entertainment'Romeo and Juliet' staring Tom Holland ignites fury and racial backlash online

'Romeo and Juliet' staring Tom Holland ignites fury and racial backlash online

Francesca Amewudah-Rivers and Tom Holland
Francesca Amewudah-Rivers and Tom Holland
Images source: © Instagram, ONS

6:39 PM EDT, April 19, 2024

The excitement surrounding the stage version of "Romeo and Juliet" took a sour turn upon the announcement of the cast. Tom Holland, a familiar face from Hollywood, was set to portray Romeo, while newcomer Francesca Amewudah-Rivers, an African-American actress, was cast as Juliet. This selection sparked a backlash on the internet, with some individuals resorting to making racist remarks towards Amewudah-Rivers.

As of now, Amewudah-Rivers has yet to respond publicly, though reports suggest the level of hate directed at her is unprecedented, even by the standards of social media abuse. The intensity of this backlash emerged even before the play's debut.

Feeling overwhelmed by the situation, the British actress deactivated the commenting feature on her Instagram account, which included posts about “Romeo and Juliet.”

"Romeo and Juliet" play details

Directed by Jamie Lloyd, the new production of "Romeo and Juliet" is set to premiere on May 11 at London's Duke of York’s Theatre, running until August 3. Tom Holland has expressed his excitement about the project on Instagram, highlighting the collaborative spirit of the cast.

Tom said he was "beyond excited to announce our cast for Romeo and Juliet". Francesca also shared the news on social media, where she unfortunately faced a barrage of hateful and vulgar responses. The casting decision has prompted a significant portion of the audience to express their displeasure, with some going as far as to label it “the worst casting of all time.”

Addressing the Hate

The casting has drawn criticism not only for its racial implications but also because some feel Francesca's appearance diverges from the traditional image of Juliet. There's a faction of the audience that would prefer Zendaya, Holland's real-life partner, for the role.

The Jamie Lloyd Company has stood by Amewudah-Rivers, condemning the abuse and committing to combat any forms of harassment.

"We are working with a remarkable group of artists. We insist that they are free to create work without facing online harassment. We will continue to support and protect everyone in our company at all costs. Any abuse will not be tolerated and will be reported.," stated the Jamie Lloyd Company.
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