The CW’s Charmed Has Been Branded as a Latina Reboot and That’s Not Entirely True
One of the things that’s been heavily promoted about the reboot of Charmed is that it is going to be a Latina-led series. During the Television Critics’ Association’s summer press tour, it was said the new Charmed ones would have a Latina mother and different fathers, and the show will explore each of their “unique heritages,” and while that is certainly a possibility, after speaking with the actresses at NYCC it seems like there is still a lot to be done.
The first issue that needs to be clarified is that of the three actresses in the show, only one of them is Latina: Melonie Diaz, who plays Mel Vera. At the press roundtable, actress Sarah Jeffery was asked about how Latinx magic was going to be in the show reflecting the actress’s culture, and Jeffery clarified that she herself is not Latina. Jeffrey said, “I’m African-American,” and that her mother is Indigenous Canadian.
Now if you look at the Wikipedia entry for the show, it says that Diaz and Jeffery are of Hispanic descent and the link to the article that claims that, on Bustle, says that all three women are of Hispanic descent. Actress Madeleine Mantock is Afro-Carribean, and at first that doesn’t mean she couldn’t be Latina or Hispanic, because there are Spanish- speaking islands in the Carribean. But when I asked her about her character being Afro-Latina, she said that her Carribean heritage is Jamaican, and doing some twitter research I found this Tweet that got little traction, but attempted to clarify some things:
I am Afro-Caribbean and Caucasian. The internet is wrong about a lot of things! https://t.co/8xPD5Zx5G6
— Madeleine Mantock (@missmads) July 4, 2018
So I just want to start off by saying I don’t blame the actresses for this confusion, because in the interviews and as far back as July, they were being very honest about who they were and not trying to pretend to be Latina. I’m frustrated at the casting, the production, and, frankly, the colorism that allowed this confusion to not only perpetuate but remain unquestioned by multiple sites, including ours.
During the Charmed interviews it was shared that the actresses did not screen test together, so they were cast as sisters based on their individual performances and the idea that they would look good together. Which then goes into colorism—the idea that because they are lighter-skinned women with long hair, they can “pass” for Latina when they are actually black women. This is a huge problem. There were already Latinx people talking about how they only got lighter-skinned Latina women for the role, but now it’s the added sting of no, they didn’t get lighter skinned Latinas or Afro-Latinas, they got light-skinned black women.
Then there is the issue of the magical elements that they said would pull from their unique cultures. Apparently, this is still being worked on, because the pilot was filmed from March 19 to April 7, 2018, and the filming for the rest of the series started August 13, 2018, and is supposed to go on until December 21, 2018. So there is still a lot to be done and we don’t yet have any news about if there are Latina writers in the writer’s room, but if there are not, that needs to be corrected immediately.
What also stings is that I trusted this show, and it was being done by the producers of Jane The Virgin, which has been such an important piece of Latinx representation for so many years. But what I should have done was more of my own research, because the developers of this new Charmed, Jessica O’Toole, Amy Rardin, and Jennie Snyder Urman, are all white women. They are also executive producers along with a bunch of white men.
This is why diversity behind the screen in terms of production and casting is so, so, so, so important because this should not have happened, and it’s not the fault of Jeffery or Mantock who are trying to be very thoughtful about the project and what it means in terms of representation, but when the creatives realized they’d cast two black actresses who were not Latina in this show, they should have changed the narrative to reflect that.
In fact, all you’d have to do is make Melonie Diaz the secret elder half-sister (and she is, in fact, the eldest of the actress) with a Puerto Rican father, and have the mother be black and then you could have Sarah Jeffery and Madeleine Mantock have the same parents. Simple. You keep the great actresses you have and you get to have multiple kinds of black/brown representation. Giving the Latina mother character three children with three different dads to make up for the fact that you didn’t cast Latina actresses for all three parts is not a solution.
I was very conflicted on how to report on this because, despite everything, I was rooting for this series because it was getting unfairly dragged for a lot of racist issues. I also wanted to see a show about Latina witches to be real and to have really good representation for the Latina community and this is not that. The same way that casting Floriana Lima, an Italian actress, to play a Mexican character on Supergirl was a mess.
Charmed said it was a going to be a feminist, inclusive, diverse alternative to its counterpart, but starting your series off by not casting a Latina cast when you are selling at as a Latinx series is a misfire, despite how good the actors are and how fun the pilot is.
(image: Jordon Nuttall/The CW)
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