Black ‘Romeo & Juliet’ star backed by 800+ actors condemning ‘racist and misogynistic abuse’

A young Black woman with braided hair in a bright green velvet suit and a black shirt smiling against a BBC backdrop
Actor Francesca Amewudah-Rivers will star opposite Tom Holland in an upcoming stage production of “Romeo & Juliet.”
( Ian West / Getty Images)

“We see you.” That’s one message more than 800 Black artists amplified in an open letter supporting “Romeo & Juliet” star Francesca Amewudah-Rivers.

Another message? “The racist and misogynistic abuse directed at such a sweet soul has been too much to bear.”

On Tuesday, British actor Susan Wokoma and writer Somalia Nonyé Seaton published their public response to the online abuse surrounding Amewudah-Rivers and her being cast in an upcoming production of “Romeo & Juliet.” The open letter touts signatures from hundreds of Black actors including Marvel’s Lashana Lynch, “Lovecraft Country” star Wunmi Mosaku and Oscar nominee Marianne Jean-Baptiste.


In late March, Amewudah-Rivers announced on Instagram that she will share the stage opposite “Spider-Man” star Tom Holland in the Jamie Lloyd Company’s production of the William Shakespeare classic. The “Bad Education” actor’s casting was swiftly met with a split reaction in her Instagram comments.

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While some followers voiced excitement for Amewudah-Rivers’ turn as Juliet Capulet (“This is incredible Fran! So so proud of you”), others weren’t as thrilled.

In the comments section, some trolls wrote that Amewudah-Rivers “is the worst casting ever for Juliet,” while another retorted, “but the character is white.” While a couple of critics opted to use vomiting emojis to express their opinions, another used a racial slur in their twist on the play’s title.

More than a week after Amewudah-Rivers’s social media announcement, the Jamie Lloyd Company released a statement condemning the “barrage of deplorable racial abuse online.” The missive did not name Amewudah-Rivers, but confirmed the comments were toward a “member of our company.”

“This must stop,” the missive said.

The company praised its “remarkable” cast, said it would provide support and protection to its company “at all costs,” and wrote that it had no tolerance for abuse. The production of “Romeo & Juliet” will continue to move forward, the statement said.

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Tuesday’s open letter slams the “twisted, ugly abuse,” noting that Black actors — specifically Black women — are often subjected to racial abuse online after securing a “job on their own.” In recent years, Lynch, Halle Bailey and Yara Shahidi are among the Black actors who have been subjected to racist trolls when they were cast in high-profile roles.


Wokoma, Seaton and hundreds of signatories also called on the Jamie Lloyd Company to extend further support for Amewudah-Rivers, adding that “reporting is too often left on the shoulders of the abused who are also then expected to promote said show.”

The open letter ends by directly addressing Amewudah-Rivers and other Black women actors who have experienced the “traumatic hurdle of misogynoir” while pursuing their craft. The letter also encouraged Amewudah-Rivers to take in the “joy” of her “Romeo & Juliet” role.

“Every tongue that rises up against you will fall,” the statement said, before sending a parting note to Amewudah-Rivers’s critics. “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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“Romeo & Juliet,” directed by Lloyd, begins its 12-week run in May at Duke of York’s Theatre in London.

A representative for Amewudah-Rivers did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment on Tuesday.