The never-ending coverage for the film adaptation of the Broadway musical, Dreamgirls, continues, this time with an interview with original Broadway cast member, Sheryl Lee Ralph. This portion of her interview caught my attention.
R.C: How do you feel about Beyonce portraying the role you originally bought to life – Deena Jones?
SLR: It’s interesting, when Tom Eyen who is the creator, had this idea, he said that the Dreams, have to be three obviously black girls. Why? Because America will always go for that light, bright, long haired black girl because they will feel comfortable building her up, since they see themselves in her.
But for the obviously black girl, if she makes it, she deserves to be right there. Because they aren’t trying to push her, that’s why the Dreams had to be three obviously black girls.
So when they cast Beyonce in the role of Deena Jones. I said, “Wow, this is exactly what Tom Eyen said would happen.” They going to take to that light, bright blackish blonde girl because they feel comfortable with her. That’s the reality.
R.C: Who would you have cast as Deena Jones?
SLR: That’s hard because the industry isn’t pushing her, so you don’t have an obvious one to pick from. The closest one I can think of, that’s an obvious black girl with that glamour thing to her is Lauryn Hill. Heather Headley is kind of close but she’s not Deena. You know Deena is Diana Ross, she’s a drama girl, an out right glamour girl.
Someone explain to me what an obviously black girl is? I know what’s she getting at, and I think it’s dumb as hell and divisive to say.
Though with a different producer, Lauryn Hill was originally offered the role of Deena Jones way back when, so while she does a have a point that in many cases cast directors will go for a fairer skinned black, she doesn’t in this one. They chose Beyonce because like Lauryn at the time, Beyonce is the most visible black female artist out there. Their intent is to reel in younger audiences to the theaters. Lauryn just happens to be a far better actress than Beyonce — and both of them appear obviously black to me.