Adele James has captivated audiences in Netflix’s latest docuseries, “Queen Cleopatra,” where she embodies the multifaceted persona of the renowned ruler. Within a mere 24 hours of its premiere, the show has secured a spot on Netflix’s Top 10 list, drawing significant attention. As viewers eagerly watch this series, they can’t help but wonder where they’ve previously encountered James.
The docuseries made its debut on Wednesday (May 10) amid intense criticism regarding its portrayal of Cleopatra as a Black woman. It is part of Jada Pinkett Smith’s African Queens collection for Netflix, with Smith serving as executive producer and narrator, following the success of the previous installment centered around Njinga Ana de Sousa Mbande, the ruler of Ndongo and Matamba.
Before her remarkable performance in “Queen Cleopatra,” Adele James had already graced the screen with her talent. She honed her skills at Richmond-upon-Thames College and the University of Bristol, as reported by Greek City Times. Moreover, James had previously secured a role in a popular British series, showcasing her versatility as an actor.
For those curious to delve deeper into James’s background, it’s worth exploring her previous roles and discovering her social media presence. Furthermore, James has addressed the accusations of “Black-washing” surrounding her latest role, offering her response to the controversy.
What Else Has Adele James Starred In?
James, a multi-talented individual excelling in writing, producing, and acting, gained prominence through her breakthrough role as Tina Mollett in the long-running BBC series Casualty. Since its initial premiere in 1986, the ongoing series has successfully aired 37 seasons. Adele James herself graced the show in various episodes spanning seasons 34 to 36, which were broadcasted between 2020 and 2021.
Making her on-screen debut in the 2014 short film “One Minute,” James quickly made her mark and further showcased her acting prowess in projects like “Who I Am” and the television series “Nate & Jamie.” Additionally, she co-created the television series “That’s What She Said,” in which she also starred in a single episode. Displaying her versatility, James extended her creative contributions to producing with short films such as “Last Call” and “Post-You Me.” Furthermore, she exhibited her writing skills by penning an episode of “The Corona Connections” for Shoreditch Pictures.
Engaging with her audience on Instagram (@adele_jjames), James actively shares her experiences as an acting coach for the esteemed company In the Room. Previously, she hosted a podcast with the same name, further demonstrating her passion for nurturing talent. Her Instagram account also highlights her role as a “champion” for Papyrus, a UK mental health organization dedicated to supporting young individuals struggling with suicide, emphasizing James’s commitment to making a positive impact in the community.
Adele James Responds To Accusations of “Black-Washing”
Prior to the premiere of “Queen Cleopatra,” the series faced severe accusations from the Egyptian government and others regarding its portrayal of the Egyptian Queen as a Black woman. In April, Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities released a statement, alleging that the docuseries had taken excessive creative liberties by depicting the renowned ruler with “white skin and Hellenistic characteristics.” Critics, including a petition opposing the Netflix production, condemned the Afrocentrism movement as “pseudoscience” and accused the creators of depriving Egyptians of their history.
During an appearance on The Wayner Ayers podcast, James directly addressed these criticisms, questioning the concept of “Blackwashing.” She expressed sadness at the notion that individuals either harbor self-loathing or feel threatened by Blackness to the extent of wanting to separate Egypt from the rest of the continent.
Subsequently, the actor from Casualty discussed the reception of the docuseries on Steph’s Packed Lunch podcast. James acknowledged anticipating some backlash but admitted being taken aback by the magnitude of it. She labeled the controversy as fundamentally racist and emphasized that people were focusing on the wrong aspects.
Moreover, she emphasized that the documentary went beyond a single dimension and that reducing Cleopatra or any person to their race was misguided. James asserted that the series aimed to explore the fullness of Cleopatra’s character, highlighting her humanity rather than solely fixating on her racial identity.
Controversial Portrayal of Queen Cleopatra as a Black Woman
In the first episode of the series, “Queen Cleopatra,” the portrayal of Cleopatra as a Black woman is briefly addressed but not revisited thereafter. Professor Shelley Haley, a Classics teacher at Hamilton College and one of the experts featured in the documentary, highlights the diverse range of skin colors among African Egyptians, noting similarities to the people from South Sudan to modern-day Egypt, ranging from Black to pale brown. Dr. Sally-Ann Ashton, author of “Cleopatra and Egypt,” questions the previous exclusive depiction of Cleopatra as solely European and finds it peculiar.
Although these conversations appear unnecessary and rooted in anti-Black sentiments, James remains resilient and maintains a positive outlook. She takes to Twitter to share her recent press appearances, expressing a desire to be remembered for them rather than being driven away from the online space by bullies and racists.
James can rest assured as the series is proving to be a success on Netflix, receiving acclaim from critics. Joel Keller of Decider, in his review, commends her portrayal of Cleopatra, describing it as a “good job” in depicting the Egyptian queen as a strong, intelligent, and determined leader. Leila Latif from The Guardian praises James’s performance, noting that it stands out amidst the surrounding elements of the show.
“Queen Cleopatra” is currently available for streaming on Netflix, providing audiences the opportunity to witness James’s remarkable portrayal of the legendary queen.