800 Black Actors Sign Letter in Support for ‘Romeo & Juliet’ Star Francesca Amewudah-Rivers


April 17, 2024

They’re rallying together to support the young talent.

Over 800 Black actors have signed an open letter condemning the online racial abuse of Francesca Amewudah-Rivers, the Black British actress recently cast as Juliet in an upcoming stage adaptation of Romeo & Juliet.

Amewudah-Rivers announced on Instagram that she would be starring opposite Spider-man star Tom Holland in William Shakespear’s classic romantic tragedy. Although the young actress and her fans were very excited to see her take the stage, online trolls flooded the comments with racist vitriol and calls for the role of Juliet to be played by a white actress, despite Amewudah-Rivers’ extensive stage and television resume.


A letter of support for Amewudah-Rivers was initiated by actor Susan Wokoma and playwright Somalia Nonyé Seaton in response to racist attacks.

“Many of us took to social media to shower our baby sis with love and congratulations – a huge deal for someone so young in their career. A huge rising talent,” the letter reads. “But then what followed was a too familiar horror that many of us visible Black dark skinned performers have experienced. The racist and misogynistic abuse directed at such a sweet soul has been too much to bear.”

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Eight-hundred and eighty-three actors signed the letter including Lashana Lynch and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Since the letter was published in The Guardian, other actors from around the world have voiced their support of Amewudah-Rivers including Academy Award winner Viola Davis.

“Shakespeare is for everyone, not just one race and definitely not just for white people,” Davis wrote in an Instagram post.

Producer Jamie Lloyd Company issued a statement saying: “Following the announcement of our Romeo & Juliet cast, there has been a barrage of deplorable racial abuse online directed towards a member of our company. This must stop.”


This isn’t the first time a Black actor has faced backlash for starring in a beloved role. Halle Bailey and Yara Shahidi dealt with racism and misogyny following their casting in live-action Disney classics, and both went on to deliver critically acclaimed performances.

“We want to send a clear message to Francesca and all Black women performers who face this kind of abuse – we see you,” supporters write in the letter. “We see the art you manage to produce with not only the pressures that your white colleagues face but with the added traumatic hurdle of misogynoir. We are so excited to watch you shine.”

Romeo & Juliet, directed by Lloyd, will begin its 12-week run in May at Duke of York’s Theatre in London.


Cover Photo: ‘Romeo & Juliet’ Star Francesca Amewudah-Rivers Supported by 800 Black Actors in Open Letter / Photo credit: British Comedy Guide

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