Thu. May 23rd, 2024

Breaking Down the Controversy Surrounding Tom Holland’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’

By Michael Apr 9, 2024
Tom Holland and Francesca Amewudah Rivers Getty Images 2

The Internet hasn’t been quiet since Francesca Amewudah-Rivers was cast alongside Tom Holland in an upcoming London production of Romeo & Juliet.

Amewudah-Rivers was announced as the show’s Juliet in March, one month after it was revealed Holland, 27, was going to be starring in the William Shakespeare play. Since adding Amewudah-Rivers to the cast, countless vitriolic comments about the actress’ appearance and race have been made online.

Trolls took to Amewudah-Rivers’ Instagram page to antagonize her. The bullying toward the Black actress was so bad that the official Romeo & Juliet Instagram page has turned off comments. On Friday, April 5, director Jamie Lloyd’s production company released a statement seemingly calling out the social media trolls for their harsh words against Amewudah-Rivers.

“Following the announcement of our Romeo & Juliet cast, there has been a barrage of deplorable racial abuse online directed towards a member of our company. This must stop,” the Instagram statement read. “We are working with a remarkable group of artists. We insist that they are free to create work without facing online harassment.”

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The production company vowed that they were going to “continue to support and protect” the entire cast and crew while noting they had a zero-tolerance policy for abuse.

“Bullying and harassment have no place online, in our industry or in our wider communities. Our rehearsal room is full of joy, compassion, and kindness,” the message continued. “We celebrate the extraordinary talent of our incredible collaborators. The Romeo & Juliet community will continue to rehearse with generosity and love, and focus on the creation of our production.”

Holland, who is in a long term relationship with Zendaya, has yet to speak out publicly about the controversy surrounding the actress portraying his love interest. This production is Holland’s first return return to the West End since he starred in Billy Elliot as a child. Following his West End debut, Holland went on to portray Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Before Romeo & Juliet, Amewudah-Rivers starred in professional productions of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Othello. Her role as Juliet will be her West End debut. She also had a recurring role on the British TV series Bad Education and works as a composer for various screen projects.

In addition to Holland and Amewudah-Rivers, the play also stars Freema Agyeman, Michael Balogun, Tomiwa Edun, Mia Jerome, Daniel Quinn-Toye and Ray Sesay. Romeo & Juliet is currently in rehearsals and is set to run at the Duke of York’s Theatre from May 11 through August 3. Tickets for its 12-week run are already sold out.

Despite the online backlash, rumors swirled that following its run in London the play will transfer to Broadway.

By Michael

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