Though there has been a loud backlash from Egyptian nationals – including the country’s government itself – towards Netflix’s race-swapping of their history for Queen Cleopatra, the docuseries’ star Adele James cares little for any of it, as she believes that all of it is based on nothing more than a mix of self-hatred and, of course, racism.
REALIZED: Netflix’s ‘Queen Cleopatra’ Director Condescendingly Dismisses Criticism Against Series’ Race-Swapping Of Actual History: “We Don’t Realize That Misogynoir Still Has An Effect On Us Today”
James broke her silence on the topic during a recent appearance on the 79th episode of The Wayne Ayers Podcast.
Asked by the eponymous host for her opinion on the fact that “people are mad about Cleopatra being blackwashed”, the British actress replied [Time Stamp: 08:40] “Blackwashing isn’t a thing, is it?”
At this point, a bit of technical difficulties caused some of James’ response to be cut off, but when as her microphone kicked back in, she could be heard asserting, “I find it sad that people are either so self-loathing or so threatened by the Blackness that they feel the need to do that, to separate Egypt from the rest of the continent.”
Following a brief discussion about her process preparing for the overall, Ayers then inquired with James about whether or not the fact that “nobody has seen it yet but everybody is bashing it” has been “the biggest [career] obstacle for you?”
“There was absolutely a lot of people saying very horrible things, but it definitely wasn’t everyone,” she said [Time Stamp: 16:00]. “I think that’s so important to remember that like, in the grand scheme of things, there were some people who lost their minds over it, but there was a lot of really positive responses immediately as well. And it’s remained. It’s consistent. People are so excited. I’m getting messages all the time.”
“But this is the biggest thing I have had to deal with in the public sphere,” she then noted. “It’s the most I’ve had to navigate personally, as an actress, this has definitely elevated my profile considerably on an international scale. The biggest show I had done before this was a television program here in the UK [the long-running British soap opera Casualty) that does have repeats in other parts of Europe, but several years down the line. In the UK it’s big, but outside of the UK it’s not as big. So this is like, a whole ‘nother scale of a project for me.”
“I would say it’s not wholly negative,” Adele added. “And actually, as time has gone on, those voices have gotten quieter and quieter.”
Ayers then broached the topic of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Archaelogy’s recent criticism of the Netflix series as “[competing] with the simplest historical facts and the writings of historians,” to which James responded with dismissive laughter.
“Yeah, I know I shouldn’t laugh, but it’s quite funny,” the actress explained of her knee-jerk response. “It’s quite funny. The level of threat that you must feel just on my skin tone, to file a lawsuit against an entire streaming service…that to me, is really extreme. It’s a really extreme reaction.”
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James would then reveal that her defense of Netflix’s race-swapping was rooted in contemporary notions of race politics, claiming that the response from the Egyptian people was “100% fundamentally rooted in racism, which is a very modern ideology.”
“The ancient Egyptians they don’t think about race like we do, because race has only really been contexualized since we understand sit since the Trans Atlantic slave trade,” she argued. “That’s not how people thought back then, right? So it’s really bizarre, but to me, I find it very sad. I feel sad for them.”
Closing out their conversation about the Netflix series, Ayers ultimately asked James what she hoped critics could gain from watching the series.
“Well, if they watch it, if they give us some hate views, I hope that they will understand that it’s a debate, it’s a conversation, it’s not a definitive answer,” said James. “And actually, the research on it is really interesting, and the people talking about it are really interesting, but I’m sure they’ll discover quite quickly that the series is about so much more than that. Cleopatra is no more reduced to what her heritage may or may not have been than I am, or any of us. We’re all full human beings, and she was a full human being, a person. And that’s what this is about.”
Queen Cleopatra is now streaming on Netflix.
NEXT: Egypt’s Ministry Of Tourism And Archaeology Lambasts Netflix’s Decision To Race-Swap ‘Queen Cleopatra’, Says It “Competes With The Simplest Historical Facts”