Jessica Chastain is defending the casting of co-star Penelope Cruz in their new espionage thriller “The 355”.

On Wednesday, Variety published an article criticizing the upcoming movie, in which Cruz and Chastain star alongside Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger and Fan Bingbing as a group of female spies from different international intelligence agencies who team up to fight a common foe.

As Variety points out, Cruz’s character is Colombian but the actress herself hails from Spain.

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“She’s cast in a role that makes it seem clear that executives and agents put no effort into scouring the world to find a more appropriate choice, or to be even more daring, an actual Colombian actress to play Graciela,” Variety‘s Clayton Davis wrote.

Chastain, who is also one of the film’s producers, released a statement in defence of the casting

“When I had the idea of making this film, we didn’t have a script or financing. She was incredibly helpful in this regard. After conversations with our consultant, I brought her the idea that she could play a fervent agent from Brazil. She mentioned that it wouldn’t be right for her to play a character from Brazil, as the majority language is Portuguese,” said Chastain.

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“I realized that Colombia has a rich ethnic heritage, with approximately 80 per cent of the population having European or mixed European heritage. We settled on a character who is a descendant from the colonization of Spain in the New World,” she continued.

“I understand that we are continuing to evolve how we think in terms of our cultural beliefs. When making this film, I wanted to move beyond nationalism and understand the international common thread that connects us all,” her statement concluded. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t important where the characters came from, but that they all come together to form an alliance beyond borders.”