Tina Fey’s new film Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has been criticized online for casting British actor Alfred Molina and American actor Christopher Abbott as Afghans, but the actress and producer said in a recent interview she expected some backlash for that decision.
Asked by the New York Times if, as producer of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Fey had say in casting decisions, the actress replied, “I had a lot of say. If your next question is, why is Chris Abbott not Afghan? — I did beg [the casting directors], ‘Guys, my preference would be a native speaker,'” Fey said. “They pleaded their case that Chris [was] their choice.” She added that the “tricky thing is, Afghans [can be] Caucasians.”
“[I said,] ‘Do you really like this guy? Because the only person — the only person! — who’s going to get in trouble for this is me,'” Fey said. According to the star, Abbott — who once described himself as a “euro-mutt” and is of Italian and Portuguese heritage — heavily researched his role as Fey’s onscreen guide and confidant. “No one’s wanting to make a misstep there,” she said.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is the latest film to come under fire for its casting choices. Last year, both Aloha and Pan were slammed for hiring white actresses in non-white roles.
“It wasn’t great, I felt really bad about it,” Pan costar Rooney Mara, who played Native American character Tiger Lily in the film, said last year. Mara recently added, “I really hate, hate, hate that I am on that side of the whitewashing conversation. I really do. I don’t ever want to be on that side of it again. I can understand why people were upset and frustrated.”
Emma Stone, who was cast as a half-Chinese character in Aloha, said the controversy around her film helped her learn “on a macro level about the insane history of whitewashing in Hollywood and how prevalent the problem truly is.”
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is out now.