Gugu Mbatha-Raw for Black Canary? Justina Machado for The Question? Let’s break down this fantastic Birds of Prey casting shortlist.
Yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter revealed the casting shortlist for the upcoming Margot Robbie-produced, Christina Hodson-written, Cathy Yan-directed girl gang superhero movie of my dreams, Birds of Prey.
I was initially just excited to hear news that the movie was actually going to start filming much sooner than I thought (by the start of the new year). Then, I officially jumped onto the hype train when I saw the shortlist of actresses that either tested or read for roles in the film — all of them awesome ladies who are not only incredibly talented, but are a way more diverse group than we normally get to see in superhero films (or, sadly, most films).
Here are the actresses that we know of so far that have tested or read for the roles:
Margaret Qualley, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Cristin Milioti for Helena Bertinelli/Huntress
While Helena Bertinelli’s origin story has been tweaked a few times throughout DC’s many continuities, the basic bones of her origin story is that she is the daughter of a prominent mafia boss who witnesses the murder of her parents by a rival mafia boss and becomes the Huntress in order to seek revenge — oftentimes in an incredibly violent manner — against the men who murdered her family.
There have been two different looks for Huntress — a white and more scantily clad version in the pre-Rebirth era, and a darker-skinned, more practically dressed Italian woman in the current Rebirth timeline. And while I was hoping for a woman of color for this role, it looks like we’ll be getting the pre-Rebirth era Huntress (though hopefully with more clothes on). Still, I’m pretty hyped for the casting choices, with my personal favorite being Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Fargo).
Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Jurnee Smolett-Bell for Dinah Lance/Black Canary
Fans of the The CW’s Arrow will be familiar with this popular DC comics character, a badass martial artist who likewise possesses the ability to incapacitate opponents with a sonic scream, dubbed the “canary cry.” And while Dinah Lance has always been portrayed as white in both the comics and media iterations, the two actresses mentioned on this shortlist as having tested for the role — plus Janelle Monae, whose name was mentioned but wasn’t reported as having read for the role — are women of color. Which I am 110% here for.
I’m a big fan of Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, A Wrinkle in Time, The Cloverfield Paradox) and have long felt like she should be way more famous than she is, so I’d be thrilled if she got a role in what will probably be one of my favorite DCEU films. Honestly though, if the role ended up going to either Jurnee Smolett-Bell (Friday Night Lights, Underground) or Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures, Moonlight, releasing one of the best albums of 2010, 2013 and 2018) then I’d still be over the moon.
Justina Machado and Roberta Colindrez for Renee Montoya/The Question
Admittedly, I don’t know too much about the Renee Montoya version of The Question (though the version from the fantastic Justice League: Unlimited cartoon was one of my favorite characters from that entire series). However, I do know that she is a detective in the Gotham Police Department and a lesbian who has often been shown to be in a relationship with Kate Kane/Batwoman.
I’m super amped to see her on the big screen for two reasons — one, she’ll be either the first or one of the first canonically queer superheroes on the big screen, and two, there’s a chance that she’ll be played either by Justina Machado, who is amazing on One Day at a Time, or Roberta Colindrez, who did amazing work on Vida. I cannot wait!
Unknown for Cassandra Cain/Batgirl/Orphan
While I’m excited for all these lovely lady superheroes to appear on the big screen, it’s Cassandra Cain who I’m most excited to see. Cassandra Cain is my all-time favorite Batgirl (I know — Barbara Gordon is more iconic and we definitely need to see her take up the mantle, but Cass Cain is just so close to my heart), one of the best fighters in the entire DC universe, and she’s half Asian!
While WB is rumored to be looking to “remold” — whatever that means — the character into being 12 years old, they’re reportedly looking for an Asian actress to fill the part. Be still my heart!
Decisions are supposed to be made over the next two weeks in order to be ready to fill by the start of 2019, which means we’ll hopefully be hearing official casting news in early October. And if the official cast list is even anything close to this shortlist, then this movie just shot up to the top of my favorites list. Here’s hoping some of my faves get the role!