Following the casting news of Kathryn Hahn as Joan Rivers in an upcoming Showtime limited series, Sarah Silverman claims the role is the latest example of Hollywood’s “Jewface” problem.
In a heated episode of her self-titled podcast, the comedian, 50, argues only Jews should play Jews in movies and on television.
“There’s this long tradition of non-Jews playing Jews, and not just playing people who happen to be Jewish but people whose Jewishness is their whole being,” Silverman said. “One could argue, for instance, that a Gentile [a non-Jew] playing Joan Rivers correctly would be doing what is actually called ‘Jewface.’”
Silverman continued, “It’s defined as when a non-Jew portrays a Jew with the Jewishness front and center, often with makeup or changing of features, big fake nose, all the New York-y or Yiddish-y inflection. And in a time when the importance of representation is seen as so essential and so front and center, why does ours constantly get breached even today in the thick of it?”
Aside from Hahn’s upcoming role, Silverman offered other examples, Felicity Jones playing Ruth Bader Ginsburg (“On The Basis Of Sex”), Rachel Brosnahan playing Miriam Maisel (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), Margo Martindale playing Bella Abzug (“Mrs. America”) and Tracey Ullman playing Betty Friedan (“Mrs. America”).
She later insisted that while these actors aren’t “doing anything wrong” by playing Jewish characters, the recurring casting is “fucked up.”
“Right now, representation f**king matters,” Silverman added. “It has to also finally matter for Jews as well. Especially Jewish women.”
Tony Shalhoub, who won a 2019 Emmy for playing a Jewish professor Abe Weissman in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”, weighed in about Silverman’s comments in an interview with Page Six.
“I always feel that we’re actors,” said Shalhoub. “We were trained to — at least I was — to not play myself, to play characters and so it’s troubling to me that they’re limiting actors,” he said.
“I just don’t know,” Shalhoub continued. “If we start to go down that road, I don’t know where it ends. Are people who are members of the Mafia, are they going to be upset that people who haven’t actually committed those types of crimes are playing those roles? When you extrapolate it all the way out the way lies complete chaos.”