When I saw the new version of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” now in the final days of its run on Broadway, I hadn’t seen any previous versions. Not the stage play, film, or TV adaptions, all of which had a lead character named Stanley Kowalski. Actor Blair Underwood’s interpretation drops the last name, but not the fierceness and brutality which Marlon Brando brought to the role both on Broadway and in the classic Elia Kazan film – but does those emotions take on a different meaning when performed by a black man? And how does the Creole heritage of the two women leads matter differently when they’re played by women of color?
Those are some of the questions Melissa posed to Underwood and “Streetcar” director Emily Mann last Saturday during our discussion about multiracial casting, being black on Broadway, and audiences on the “Great White Way.”
Speaking of adding melanin to previously all-white roles, the trailer for a new Lifetime version of the Louisiana tearjerker “Steel Magnolias” was released this past week, and it is noticeably different from its 1989 predecessor:
The film is being remade with an A-list black cast that includes Alfre Woodard as Ouiser, Jill Scott as beauty shop owner Truvy, and executive producer Queen Latifah, who plays mother-hen character M’lynn. Newcomers include Condola Rashad as Shelby — whose mother, Phylicia, is also starring in the production as the wealthy Clairee — and Adepero Oduye as new-in-town beautician Annelle.
Dodai Stewart gives it a preliminary thumbs-up in Jezebel:
When I was a kid I saw Steel Magnolias as a play and I remember thinking it was cool that you never actually see the men being discussed; the entire show was set in the beauty salon, aka Lady Territory. Not the case in the Julia Roberts movie or this TV version. Pretty sure there wasn’t a line about Beyoncé in the play either. But hey: It’s free on TV and it’s black ladies! I’ll watch.
We’ll keep an eye on it, as well. In the meantime, though, check out Melissa’s discussion with Underwood and Mann, below and after the jump.