What Exactly Is Kate Winslet Doing in ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’?
James Cameron went back to his Titanic roots by casting Kate Winslet in Avatar: The Way of Water, but you’d be forgiven if you missed her—after all, she’s blue.
In fact, several members of the all-star cast are hard to recognize in their blue Na’vi forms, from Sigourney Weaver, now playing her on-screen daughter, to Zoe Saldaña, who steals the show in this sequel. Other returning cast members include Sam Worthington as Jake Sully and Stephen Lang as Quaritch.
With the Forest Na’vi branching out from their home on Pandora to the Water Tribes, we meet several new characters in Avatar: The Way of Water, as well as Jake and Neytiri’s children, all played by new cast members.
In case you missed exactly where Winslet showed up in this film or want to keep an eye out ahead of time, here’s a look at who she plays—and why a controversial element of her acting might have camouflaged her.
Who is Kate Winslet in Avatar 2?
Winslet plays Ronal, the matriarchal leader of the oceanic Pandora tribe, the Metkayina—and a total badass. Not only is she a healer, but she’s a seasoned warrior who takes no prisoners in conflict, even when heavily pregnant.
The Metkayina, like the other fictional tribes on Pandora, are inspired by various Indigenous cultures around the world, according to Cameron. Ronal’s partner and fellow leader, Tonowari, is also played by Maori actor Cliff Curtis, alongside various other Black and Indigenous actors taking on new roles in the sequel movie.
Winslet, however, is neither Black nor Indigenous. Instead, she performs an approximation of a vaguely Indigenous accent throughout the film, to the extent that I had no idea that was the character she was playing until I Googled the cast after the film. Cameron has emphasized that the Na’vi are intended to be inspired and pay homage to Indigenous cultures, but if that was the name of the game, why not cast exclusively Indigenous or POC actors to play these roles, especially if you want the characters to have Indigenous accents?
Having a white actor approximate the accents of her BIPOC colleagues is jarring to say the least. For future reference, the best way to honor Indigenous people is to actually include them in the process. Seeing as Indigenous people have been leading a boycott against the movie, it’s safe to say that Cameron has missed the mark on this one.
(featured image: 20th Century Studios)
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