Tom Holland’s Romeo & Juliet co-star receives support from 800 Black actors after racist abuse

Francesca Amewudah-Rivers has been the subject of vile racist abuse online

Tom Murray
Wednesday 10 April 2024 18:32 BST
Zendaya and Tom Holland at Indian Wells

More than 800 Black female and non-binary actors have signed an open letter in solidarity with Francesca Amewudah-Rivers, who stars opposite Tom Holland in a forthcoming West End production of Romeo & Juliet.

Amewudah-Rivers has been the subject of vile online abuse after her casting as the female lead was announced in February.

Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim and Marianne Jean-Baptiste are among the 883 signatories of the letter, which was published in The Guardian on Wednesday (10 April).

It was the initiative of Enola Holmes actor Susan Wokoma and Crowning Glory playwright Somalia Nonyé Seaton.

“The racist and misogynistic abuse directed at such a sweet soul has been too much to bear,” it reads.

“For a casting announcement of a play to ignite such twisted ugly abuse is truly embarrassing for those so empty and barren in their own lives that they must meddle in hateful abuse.”

Frances Amewudah-Rivers
Frances Amewudah-Rivers (Jamie Lloyd Company)

It continues: “We want to send a clear message to Francesca and all Black women performers who face this kind of abuse – WE see you. We see the art you manage to produce with not only the pressures that your white colleagues face but with the added traumatic hurdle of misogynoir.

“Those that came before you are by your side. Those waiting in the wings, are by your side. Allow yourself space to play and find joy in this role that your hard work and commitment has brought forth. We are so excited to watch you shine.

“Every Tongue That Rises Up Against You Will Fall.

“And to the keyboard warriors who feel discomfort in Our visibility, cry on the internet all you want, but We are here to stay.”

The letter follows a statement issued by the Jamie Lloyd theatre company condemning the “barrage of deplorable racial abuse”.

Director Jamie Lloyd called Amewudah-Rivers “an exceptional young artist”.

Tom Holland (right) and Amewudah-Rivers in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ promo
Tom Holland (right) and Amewudah-Rivers in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ promo (Jamie Lloyd Company )

The signatories welcomed the theatre company’s statement and said it hoped it would “extend to committed emotional support for Francesca on her journey with the production”.

Holland – best known for his role as Marvel’s Spider-Man – has been urged to speak out in support of his co-star. Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story actor Arséma Thomas wrote on Instagram: “You lot need to put pressure on @tomholland2023’s head top. I need my guy to say something, ANYTHING, about the disgusting racial abuse being thrown at our angel Fran.”

Holland’s representatives did not return The Independent’s request for comment.

Amewudah-Rivers is best known for playing Blessing in the Jack Whitehall comedy TV series Bad Education. She also played Gifty in Jocelyn Bioh’s play School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play at the Lyric Hammersmith theatre last year.

Lloyd’s Romeo and Juliet opens at the Duke of York’s Theatre on 23 May and runs until 3 August.

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