History is serious business, and you can’t expect people to be happy if you cast any coloured actor as Cleopatra. But that is exactly what Netflix did, and the Egyptian government was not pleased.
If the series was meant to be a fantastical show or fiction, it might have been fine, but they are preaching it as a docu-drama, so it is no surprise that people are outraged. While there has been much debate about Cleopatra’s race, most historians agree that she had fairer skin.
The Egyptian government decided to broadcast a documentary about Cleopatra’s true life on the al-Wathaeqya channel.
We decided to depict Cleopatra of mixed heritage to reflect these theories and the multicultural nature of ancient Egypt. Race in her times was a long way from what it is now. It’s not every day that academic discussion of ancient history makes the news.Roots
It appears that casting Adele Smith in the role of Cleopatra was deliberate because she reflects the ‘multicultural nature of ancient Egypt.’ People are upset about the ‘blackwashing,’ and would have preferred Netflix to choose another figure for the second season of African Queens.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the show a dismal 20% rating, and other review websites aren’t much better. Apart from the contentious casting choice, viewers are dissatisfied with the overall production.
The first episode was released on Netflix on May 10.