Yet another movie about Egypt is coming out and as is tradition, it features nothing but white people in the lead roles. Shocking exactly no one, director Ridley Scott has opted to tell the story of Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings in traditional whiteface, starring Broke-Voice Batman, Jesse Pinkman, Ripley, and Kurt Russell’s stuntman from the unnecessary 2011 The Thing prequel. And while Not-Kurt-Russell has at least gone on record saying that he at least empathizes with people who might be pissed that yet another story that takes place in an ancient African land is still being fronted by white people, Ridley Scott pretty much rolls out the standard bullshit excuse about how Egypt was a melting pot and that there are lots of theories about what ancient Egyptians may have looked like. This argument stays being bullshit because it’s pretty clear that any of the theories involving white Egyptians during the time period he’s talking about are theories you should feel free to skip based on some pretty hard and long-standing evidence. I’m also not sure how this necessitates decisions like making the face of Ramses II’s statues more European when we know exactly what they looked like, but whatever. I recognize that a lot of people in Scott’s position really want to tell these stories and they feel they can’t just tell the truth: Hollywood won’t give them the money to shoot a $100 million movie starring black people. I just wish they’d come clean and stop trying to sell us on Egypt as Ellis Island to justify whitewashing their movie.
I’m not going to go too hard in the paint here because a) I think this movie is going to flop (see Noah), and b) I’m saving all of my ire for the forthcoming even -whiter Gods of Egypt movie (in which they’ve not only made the Egyptian people white, but their gods as well. I practically salivate at all mentions of its release date). I will address the one angle of this that Scott suggests was impossible to do without the aid of actors he really felt the need to have a connection with (who just happen to be current box office-hot white actors), and that is who he could have cast that looked more Egyptian while still being able to act their asses off, all while pissing off the people who deserve to be pissed off: Elizabeth Taylor fans.
Here are seven currently hot actors that look more like actual Egyptians, could have acted this script at least as well as the actors who were cast, and would have cost far less. The rating system is a 10 point scale, in which 10 is a masterful actor and 1 is anybody with their shirt off in a Twilight film.
Name: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Acting prowess: 8
Heat index: 7
The range on this dude is amazing, from 12 Years a Slave to Redbelt to Kinky Boots. He’s a serious commodity right now that brings quality cache to any project he touches, so now your Egypt movie will get a break with the critics until it proves itself to be a bad film. And if you need someone to cry and sweat, he’s your man.
One of the best actors in the industry, period. He’s picked up serious heat coming out of the last season of Boardwalk Empire and a Hunger Games sequel. He can do anything – Jean-Michel Basquiat to Colin Powell to the only redeemable part of Shaft 2000 – and make you believe it.
You want to make a movie about African royalty? Pick the queen. There is nothing I can say about her that even white folks don’t already know. I’ll only add that her heat index shot through the roof with the last season of American Horror Story, in which she brought the pain alongside powerhouses Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates every week.
If you’re adamant about treating Egypt like Ellis Island in your movie, then half of your cast should probably look like Williams. He’s had a good run on Grey’s Anatomy for a while, so he’s got some weight he can bring to the table here. Also, by casting him, you have the added benefit of his phenomenal brain (seriously: dude is hella smart) which, when applied to the degrees he got in African American and film studies, will keep your project in historical check.
Fresh off of a TV series that deserved at least one more season (Almost Human) and some heat from being in a number of other popular ones (The Good Wife, Californication), Ealy has chops that being in black rom-coms don’t reveal. If you have to go with an Egyptian of ambiguous ancestry, he’s your man. Also, dude’s prettier than the whole cast they got now balled up in one.
If you absolutely must cast someone from the admittedly classic Breaking Bad, why not go for the guy who could pass for an Egyptian AND can act his ass off? With a long career in portraying all manner of characters, Esposito has only gotten better with age. His turn as Gus on Breaking Bad was, for me, the highlight of the series.
When people find out about this dude on the scale his talent deserves they’re going to be kicking themselves. The man’s got Shakespearean chops on lock, but can mix it up equally in comedy, fantasy and drama. His casting in the recent HBO show The Leftovers increases his profile in the U.S. some, but we’re still waiting on that international breakout role. He should have been getting the jobs that David Oyelowo has been getting lately, but he was off kicking Law & Order UK and an all-black production of Julius Caesar in the ass. One of the best actors around.