Whitewashing 101: 30 Times a White Actor Portrayed a Person of Color

Whitewashing 101: 30 Times White Actors Portrayed a Person of Color

Hollywood has a long history in which a white actor portrayed a person of color. I bet you if we all collectively tallied up how many times a white actor portrayed a person of color from on-screen to the writing room and voice-overs, we could come up with over 100 roles. 100 roles that could’ve gone to an actual minority actor or actress.

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As of recently three white actors took responsibility for their privilege and resigned from voicing black and biracial characters. Kristen Bell will no longer voice Molly, a mixed-race character on Apple TV+’s animated musical comedy series Central Park. Jenny Slate exited the cast of Netflix’s Big Mouth where she voices Missy, a biracial girl. And most lately Mike Henry retired from voicing Cleveland Brown on the long-running show Family Guy.

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And while that is a great step forward it’s just another example that Hollywood still has issues with race. The industry as a whole has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go.

As we watch Hollywood continue to address its long history of disparity amongst minorities check out the 30 times a white actor portrayed a person of color.

Anthony Hopkins played in The Human Stain as Coleman Silk, an African-American man passing for Jewish.

michael jackson White Actors Portrayed a Person of Color

British actor Joseph Fiennes portrayed Michael Jackson in the British TV film, Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon.

Angelina Jolie portrayed a Mariane Pearl a Afro-Chinese-Cuban woman in A Mighty Heart.

 In the film adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, Scarlett Johannson was cast as Motoko Kusanagi, a Japanese character from the anime series.

natalie portman White Actors Portrayed a Person of Color

Natalie Portman played Lena in the film adaptation of Annihilation, who is described as being of Asian descent in the novel.

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juliette blanchord

French actress Juliette Binoche starred as Maria Segovia, a Chilean woman. Segovia is the real-life sister of one of the trapped miners in the film The 33.

the_last_airbender24 White Actors Portrayed a Person of Color

Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, and Jackson Rathbone all starred in the film The Last Airbender which is based on a Nickelodeon cartoon featuring tribes and characters of Asian and Native American-descent. The storyline centers on the journey the trio goes on to stop the Fire Nation from taking over their tribes.


Jake Gyllenhaal played a Persian man in Prince of Persia.

yn7qrs8g7cwyrgzxgorwElizabeth Taylor played the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra in Cleopatra.

Kristen Bell voiced the role of Molly, a mixed-race character on Apple TV+’s animated musical comedy series Central Park.

jeffrey ma

Jim Sturgess portrayed Ben Campbell in the film 21, which is based on real-life MIT card counter and blackjack player Jeffrey Ma who is of Asian descent. What makes it even worse, many of the people portrayed in the film are of Asian descent in real life but were portrayed by white actors in the movie.

ben affleck White Actors Portrayed a Person of Color
Ben Affleck played Mexican CIA operative, Tony Mendez in Argo.


Mena Suvari starred in Stuck, a movie based on a true-life incident involving a black woman.



Kevin Spacey starred in Pay it Forward, a movie adaptation of the book which is about a black man.


mickey-color Mickey Rooney played a Japanese man in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.



Natalie Wood starred as a Puerto Rican woman in West Side Story.

White British Christian Bale portrayed Moses, who is from Egypt, in the film Exodus: Gods and Kings. Australian actor Joel Edgerton portrayed Ramses, who was the Egyptian Pharoah.


Chuck Connors played an Apache Indian in Geronimo.

For four seasons Jenny Slate voiced the role of Missy, a biracial girl, on Netflix’s Big Mouth.

When the novel Drive was adapted into the 2011 film of the same name, the character Irina, who was a Latina in the film, was turned into a white girl named Irene for the film.


Burt Lancaster played an Apache soldier in Apache.

emma stone

In Aloha we saw Emma Stone cast as a part-Asian Allison Ng. I mean, it’s Emma Stone, who honestly can’t get any whiter (no offense).

Laurence Olivier played a Moor in Othello.

Jennifer Connelly was cast as John Nash’s wife Alicia in A Beautiful Mind. The real-life Alicia was from El Salvador.


Johnny Depp played Tonto, a Native American in The Lone Ranger.

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David Carradine played a Buddhist monk in Kung Fu.

Mike Henry voiced Cleveland Brown on Family Guy.


Katherine Hepburn played a Japanese woman in Dragon Seed.

Joel Grey played an Asian man in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.

Danish actor Nicolaj Coster-Waldau was one of the many white people portraying Egyptians in Gods of Egypt.

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