Controversy around casting for Netflix’s ‘Queen Cleopatra’ docuseries


Netflix’s upcoming Queen Cleopatra docuseries has been engulfed by controversy in recent days, with some saying the casting of a black woman depicting Queen Cleopatra is a “misrepresentation of history.”

The docuseries, produced and narrated by Jada Pinkett Smith, is part of the ‘African Queens’ series on Netflix.

Queen Cleopatra is scheduled to be shown on May 10, and stars Adele James as the Queen, John Partridge as Julius Caesar, Craig Russell as Mark Anthony, and Michael Greco as Pothinus.

The series is centred around the life and reign of Queen Cleopatra, one of Egypt’s most romanticised and famous monarchs. 

The online criticism of the series has been overwhelming. Some accuse the show of misrepresenting Queen Cleopatra of African descent and of “blackwashing” a historical figure of Greek Macedonian heritage.

According to, some of the most vocal against the series are of Greek and Egyptian heritage with many wishing to “preserve” the history of Cleopatra.

As one of the most famous historical figures of both cultures, the argument is being made that Cleopatra should be portrayed “accurately” as a way of respecting the culture and heritage of Greece and Egypt.

Cleopatra Netflix series (left), Zahi Hawass (right)
Famous Egyptologist Zahi Hawass has lambasted a new Netflix documentary series about Cleopatra for historical revisionism. Credit: Netflix (left image) / The Official White House Photo Stream / Public domain / Wikimedia Commons (right image).

Former Egyptian Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass also said depicting Queen Cleopatra as a black woman was “falsifying facts.”

“This is completely fake. Cleopatra was Greek and she was similar to the queens and princesses of Macedonia,” Hawass said, alluding to the fact that the Queen was a member of the Ptolemaic Dynasty who ruled over Egypt between 305 BC and 30 BC.

In response to the criticism, James, who plays Queen Cleopatra in the docuseries, said: “If you don’t like the casting don’t watch the show. Or do and engage in (expert) opinion different to yours.”

Source: What’s on Netflix and Egypt Independent.




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