Racist Abuse

Over 800 Black Actors Unite in Solidarity Against Racist Abuse Targeting ‘Romeo & Juliet’ Star Francesca Amewudah-Rivers

In a powerful display of unity, more than 800 Black female and non-binary actors have signed an open letter condemning the “deplorable racial abuse” directed at rising star Francesca Amewudah-Rivers.

The 24-year-old actress, set to play Juliet opposite Tom Holland in an upcoming West End production of ‘Romeo & Juliet,’ has faced a barrage of racist and misogynistic attacks online since her casting was announced in late March.

The open letter, published in The Guardian on April 10 and spearheaded by actors Susan Wokoma and Somalia Nonyé Seaton, decries the “too familiar horror” experienced by many Black performers, especially dark-skinned women.

“The racist and misogynistic abuse directed at such a sweet soul has been too much to bear,” the letter states. “For a casting announcement of a play to ignite such twisted, ugly abuse is truly embarrassing for those so empty and barren in their own lives that they must meddle in hateful abuse.”

Prominent Actors Stand with Amewudah-Rivers

Among the hundreds of signatories are several high-profile actors, including Lashana Lynch (‘No Time to Die’), Sheila Atim (‘The Woman King’), Marianne Jean-Baptiste (‘Secrets & Lies’), Freema Agyeman (‘Doctor Who’), and Wunmi Mosaku (‘Lovecraft Country’).

Their support sends a clear message: the entertainment industry must do more to protect and support Black talent facing discrimination and harassment.

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The letter also calls out the failure of theater companies, broadcasters, and streaming platforms to adequately support Black artists targeted by abuse, noting that “reporting is too often left on the shoulders of the abused, who are also then expected to promote said show.”

The signatories urge the Jamie Lloyd Company, which is producing ‘Romeo & Juliet,’ to provide “committed emotional support” to Amewudah-Rivers throughout the production process.

Jamie Lloyd Company Condemns Abuse

On April 5, the Jamie Lloyd Company released a statement condemning the “barrage of deplorable racial abuse” aimed at a member of their ‘Romeo & Juliet’ cast, though they did not name Amewudah-Rivers directly.

“This must stop,” the statement read. “We will continue to support and protect everyone in our company at all costs. Any abuse will not be tolerated and will be reported.”

While the open letter welcomes this initial response, it emphasizes the need for concrete action and support. As Arséma Thomas, an actor in Netflix’s ‘Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story,’ pointed out, Amewudah-Rivers‘ co-star Tom Holland has yet to speak out in her defense.

A Rising Star Faces Unacceptable Hate

Amewudah-Rivers, a graduate of the Identity School of Acting, has already made a name for herself with roles in the BBC series ‘Bad Education’ and the play ‘School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play’ at the Lyric Hammersmith.

Her casting as Juliet, a role traditionally portrayed by white actresses, represents a significant step forward for diverse representation in classical theater.

However, the racist backlash she has faced online underscores the pervasive discrimination and double standards that Black performers, particularly women, continue to navigate in the entertainment industry.

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As the open letter notes, “Too many times Black performers—particularly Black actresses—are left to face the storm of online abuse after committing the crime of getting a job on their own.”

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A Call for Allyship and Accountability

The outpouring of support for Amewudah-Rivers from her fellow actors is a testament to the power of solidarity in the face of hate. However, as the open letter makes clear, the burden of addressing and reporting abuse cannot fall solely on the shoulders of those targeted. It is the responsibility of industry leaders, institutions, and allies to actively create a safe and equitable environment for all performers.

As ‘Romeo & Juliet’ prepares to open at the Duke of York’s Theatre on May 23, the spotlight is not only on Amewudah-Rivers’ undeniable talent but also on the urgent need for systemic change in the entertainment world.

The over 800 signatories of this open letter have sent a resounding message: racism and misogyny have no place on stage, screen, or anywhere else. It is time for the industry to listen, learn, and take meaningful action to support and protect Black talent.

“Every Tongue That Rises Up Against You Will Fall,” the letter concludes, addressing both Amewudah-Rivers and the wider community of Black women performers. “And to the keyboard warriors who feel discomfort in Our visibility, cry on the internet all you want, but We are here to stay.”

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