Ever since the first trailer for the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz biopic “Being the Ricardos” dropped, the Amazon Prime Video feature has been hit with backlash on social media over the casting of Nicole Kidman as the legendary sitcom comedienne.

One gripe is that Kidman looks nothing like the “I Love Lucy” star, while another is that Debra Messing should have been the obvious choice, given her resemblance to Ball and the similar gift for physical comedy she displayed in all those seasons of “Will & Grace”.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the film’s writer and director, Aaron Sorkin, confronts the criticism and explains why he chose to cast Kidman.

READ MORE: Nicole Kidman Brings The Real Lucille Ball To Life In ‘Being The Ricardos’ Trailer

“I couldn’t cast Desi until we had our Lucy. What I needed was someone who absolutely owns it. And you’re going to choose from a small pool of world-class actresses. This isn’t for beginners, as Lucy says. This was going to be a kind of tour de force performance,” he explained. “And then when Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem and J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda say they want to do your movie, your casting search is over. You start out making graphs and charts and this and things like that, and then suddenly it gets easy.”

In fact, Sorkin was adamant that casting the roles based on physical resemblance would be missing the point.

“We made this movie during COVID, and so in Zooming with Nicole and Javier and everyone else, I’d make it very clear to them that I am not looking for a physical or vocal impersonation of these people. Leading up to the first rehearsal, I’d write to them every day, ‘Just play the characters who are in the script,’” he said.

“I know that Nicole was working on Lucy’s voice for a while, and I wanted to relieve her of that. As far as audience anticipation, that’s something I’m just not worried about. I’m certain that when people see the movie, they’ll leave feeling that Nicole has made a very solid case for herself, but moreover, I’ve found that you can really leverage low expectations. I learned that with ‘The Social Network’. People assumed it was going to be a romantic comedy, where, like, Paul Rudd ‘friends’ Drew Barrymore and they fall in love. And I just thought, ‘Great, they’re not expecting what they’re about to see,'” Sorkin continued.

READ MORE: Nicole Kidman Stomps Grapes As Lucille Ball, Joins Javier Bardem In First ‘Being The Ricardos’ Trailer

“The fact of the matter is when Nicole, as Lucille Ball, plays Lucy Ricardo, I think she does an incredible job of mimicking Lucy. Same with Javier, Nina and J.K. But there is, in total, less than three minutes of ‘I Love Lucy’ in this film, and the only reason the ‘I Love Lucy’ material is there is because we’re in Lucy’s head and we’re seeing that she is a comedic chess master, that she can project ahead to what [the show] is going to look like on Friday night, and how the audience is going to react and whether this joke is going to work. So, finding an actress who looked like Lucille Ball wasn’t important to me, especially because I was excited by the idea that Lucille Ball doesn’t look like Lucille Ball — and that every time we’re seeing Lucille Ball not as Lucy Ricardo, she should both literally and metaphorically let her hair down. Let her be what she’s not allowed to be on TV in 1952 on CBS. Let her be a woman. Let her be sexy. You weren’t allowed to be sexy on TV.”

Sorkin also discussed controversy over the casting Javier — who hails from Spain — as the proudly Cuban Arnaz.

“First of all, Amazon’s casting department had a Latina casting consultant [who was focused on all Latinx casting] on board. I found out, for instance, because there was an actor who I was considering who’s Brazilian, and I was told by the casting consultant that Brazilians aren’t considered Latino because they speak Portuguese. So, Javier is Spanish and the casting consultant was fine with it. But I don’t want to use the casting consultant as cover. I want to tell you my opinion on this and I stand by it, which is this: Spanish and Cuban aren’t actable, OK? They’re not actable. By the way, neither are straight and gay. Because I know there’s a small movement underway that only gay actors should play gay characters. Gay and straight aren’t actable. You could act being attracted to someone, but most nouns aren’t actable,” he explained.

READ MORE: Lucille Ball’s Daughter On Wanting Certain Inaccurate Scenes Taken Out Of ‘Being The Ricardos’: ‘It Just Wasn’t True’

“We know when we’re being demeaning. We know that Blackface is demeaning because of its historical context, because you’re making ridiculous cartoon caricatures out of people. We know that Mickey Rooney with the silly piece in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and that makeup, doing silly Japanese speak, we know that’s demeaning. This is not, I felt. Having an actor who was born in Spain playing a character who was born in Cuba was not demeaning. And it wasn’t just the casting consultant who agreed, Lucy and Desi’s Cuban-American daughter didn’t have a problem with it,” he added. “So, I’m very comfortable with it.”


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Controversial Casting In Film And TV