Jurnee Smollett is speaking out about the fan reaction to her playing Black Canary, a white character in the comics, in Birds of Prey.
Smollett, in an in-depth interview with The Hollywood Reporter, said this succinct reflection, “It brought a rage out inside of me, which was great for Canary.” That’s all she really had to say on the matter.
THR and other outlets point out the backlash against her casting was small even if it was vocal. ComicBook.com adds her performance was, for some, a silver lining in a movie that didn’t impress most people.
Smollett stands by her performance, undeterred. In a previous interview with Entertainment Weekly, she stated how honored she was to play Black Canary, adding she wants to again.
“It’s no secret how much I loved playing Black Canary, and [I was] so honored to take on that mantle,” she revealed. “I would absolutely do it again if given a chance.” Rumor is the sequel is off so she might not get the opportunity.
Smollett had more positive things to say about her take on Dinah Lance. Last October, she discussed on DC Daily ways the Canary in BOP was true to the spirit of the comics, “She’s the Dinah Lance that we know and love from the comics, you know? This ferocious street fighter. When we meet Dinah in the film, though, she’s a singer in Roman’s Black Mask club, and she’s kind of disenfranchised and disconnected from the world.”
Smollett continued, “She doesn’t really want to have anything to do with crime fighting or being a good-doer, which is so against her nature because we know Dinah to be all heart. So it’s really about her accepting her gift and accepting her power and that’s what was so fascinating for me is to explore this woman who has such strength, but exploring someone who doesn’t want to own her power.”
Additionally, Smollett talked a lot with THR about representation and working while race issues dominate headlines post-George Floyd. She took time to chastise Hollywood for its whiteness and lack of diversity at all levels despite its activism, saying, “This business can be maddening.”
“For all its liberalism,” she continued after a pause, “I’ve been in these spaces where these very powerful people do the fundraisers and write the checks for the Black or brown kids’ scholarships, and then I know for a fact they go back into their staff meetings and they’re all white.”
She added, “And if you do that, you’re a hypocrite, and you’re not actually anti-racist.”
Director Cathy Yan shared similar, if more restrained, frustrations over “undue expectations” on her as a woman of color making her first feature film for a major studio.
Birds of Prey’s brief run at theaters ended when the pandemic began. The film was promptly sent to video-on-demand, topping the charts, with the low, low price of $5.99. It debuts on HBO Max this month.