Amandla Stenberg, 19, known for her roles as Rue in The Hunger Games and Maddy in Everything, Everything, is also exceptionally thoughtful about her role as a biracial young entertainer. During an interview at the TIFF New Wave Festival in Toronto, Stenberg proved just how committed she is to being a positive cog in this country’s complex racial dynamics by revealing that she turned down a role in Black Panther because she is biracial and light-skinned.
“One of the most challenging things for me to do was to walk away from Black Panther,” Stenberg said. “I got really, really close and they were like, ‘do you want to continue fighting for this?’ And I was like, ‘This isn’t right.’”
“These are all dark skin actors playing Africans and I feel like it would have just been off to see me as a biracial American with a Nigerian accent just pretending that I’m the same color as everyone else in the movie,” she continued.
“That was really challenging, to make that decision, but I have no regrets,” the actress said. “I recognize 100 percent that there are spaces that I should not take up and when I do take up a space it’s because I’ve thought really, really critically about it and I’ve consulted people I really trust and it feels right.”
Stenberg’s decision to not participate in one of the year’s biggest and most profitable movies—as well as an important cultural moment for African-Americans—might seem strange to some, but it demonstrates her commitment to understanding the space she inhabits in America as a biracial woman and actress. Colorism is often invoked when critics look at the roles black women are given in Hollywood and notice that, usually, lighter skinned actresses are given more opportunities simply because of the color of their skin. As a result, Stenberg showed an impressive sense of self-awareness by allowing another actress take her role in Ryan Coogler’s movie.
Stenberg did not reveal what role she was close to getting and eventually gave up—perhaps Princess Shuri, played by Letitia Wright?—but we’re sure the young actress will find the perfect role for her soon enough, even if she does have high standards. In 2016, she signed on to be the lead in an adaptation of The Hate U Give, a book inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. At the same talk, Stenberg revealed what she looks for in a role.
"I'm just someone who cannot fake it. I can only do something with my full heart invested or just not do it at all,” she said. "I still am really young and it's not a race. I didn't feel like I had to be working all the time just to prove that I could work. I still have a lot of time. You don't have to force your career to happen all at once."
Stenberg revealed that after her Hunger Games debut at the age of 12, the roles that she was offered lacked complexity. That is why has been biding her time, waiting for the right one to come along.
"I also just like to play characters that I believe in, that are three-dimensional, that I think are worth it,” she added. ”I don't really want to have to diminish myself to something less nuanced or less authentic just because those roles don't normally exist for someone like me."