David Harewood recently played the part of a historically white right-winger in the play Best of Enemies at the Young Vic. The hit TV show Bridgerton reimagines a British history in which Black aristocracy rubs shoulders with the white upper classes in Regency England. 

Are these portrayals liberating, or are they whitewashing a painful history of colonialism and slavery? Should Black people be cast in roles of racist right-wingers and the slave-owning class?

Joining broadcaster and diversity champion Marcus Ryder to discuss this will be actor Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Pamela Jikiemi, who is currently rewriting RADA’s curriculum in an attempt to decolonise it, and academic Jami Rogers, who recently published the book Black and Asian Shakespearians. 

Join in this timely conversation about colour-blind casting, and its pros and cons

About The Speakers

Kobna Holdbrook Smith Headshot

Kobna Holdsbrook-Smith

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is critically acclaimed award-winning actor working in film, television, theatre and audio.

His film work includes Wonka,  Mary Poppins Returns,  Dr. Strange,  Justice League: Snyder Cut, Paddington 2, and The Commuter. On TV he has been in  His Dark Materials,  Ragdoll,  The Split,  Capital,  The Last Panthers and more. On stage he has played leads at the National, Royal Court, Young Vic, and Royal Exchange theatres. In 2015 he played Laertes opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre, and in 2019 won the Laurence Olivier award for Best Actor in a Musical for playing Ike Turner in the original production of Tina: The Tina Turner the Musical — his West End debut, and first professional musical. He has voiced many audio titles including all of Ben Aaronovitch’s best-selling Rivers of London series, many BBC and independent radio plays and poetry, and can even be heard announcing the floors in one or two of London’s lifts.

Kobna is also a trustee of Young Vic Theatre, an associate at the National Theatre, on the Creative Council of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, a Patron of Inc Arts, and in 2020 was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to drama.

Headshot of Pamela Jikiemi

Pamela Jikiemi

Pamela Jikiemi Head of Film, Television and Radio at RADA is a classically trained actor, with postgraduate study completed at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Pamela is also currently a PhD candidate exploring representation in actor training  which she discussed in her BridgertonRegency, Race and Representation: symposium panel event.

Pamela has worked creatively and extensively as an actor/director/producer (television, radio, film, theatre and voiceover, nationally and internationally) in Senior Management and as Department Head/Unit Leader/Visiting Lecturer in Broadcast, VFX/Design Post-Production, Digital Media, actor training, theatre and screen.

Pamela has garnered awards and high recognition for the short films she has produced for RADA. Her strong track record of acting, film producing, leadership and industry links ideally places her to recognise the transferable skills needed to pursue highly rewarding, composite careers in a fast moving, always challenging but constantly evolving media entertainment industry.

Published works: a chapter titled, “Training or Racialisation? The Case of the Black British Trainee Actor” published in Progress in Education 56.

Marcus Ryder

Marcus Ryder is the Head of External Consultancies at the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity which was set up to explore and increase diversity across the industry including journalism, acting, film, TV and radio in both front-of-house and behind the scenes roles.

He has spent over 25 years working in the media across the world including eight years as a senior executive at the BBC, winning numerous industry awards – from BAFTAs to Royal Television Society Awards and Foreign Press Association Awards. He has previously held the position of Chair of the Royal Television Society Diversity Committee and is currently a trustee at the Press Pad Charitable Foundation.

Marcus is also a Visiting Professor at Birmingham City University for Media Diversity and an Honorary Senior Lecturer in Journalism at The University of Sussex.

About The Academic

Jami Rogers

Jami Rogers trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and holds an MA and a PhD from the University of Birmingham. Previously she worked for PBS and at WGBH-TV/Boston on PBS’s television series Masterpiece Theatre. She teaches Shakespeare and acting, including at ArtsEd and the Universities of Birmingham, Warwick and Wolverhampton. Jami created the British Black and Asian Shakespeare Performance Database as part of the AHRC-funded Multicultural Shakespeare project at the University of Warwick. She is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Warwick and sits on the Committee of The Act For Change Project. She has undertaken several studies on diversity in television for Equity’s Race Equality Committee and the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity. Her monograph British Black and Asian Shakespeareans, 1966-2018: Integrating Shakespeare is published by Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare.