Last week as filming in Miami began, nearly every press mention of ABC’s much anticipated remake of Charlie’s Angels hailed Annie Ilonzeh, as the “first Black Charlie’s Angel.”  And while the “first Black” part of that sentence was meant to grab readers’ attention, this reader was honestly more curious about who made the hot white dresses the cast were sporting and the heel heights on their shoes.

The “Chocolate Angel’s” casting has been news for over a month now and even as the remake begins filming I still can’t get myself to care.  I just can’t.

Ilonzeh, the 27-year-old actress is best known for her role on General Hospital, but in the series remake, she will be playing an angel named Kate.  Kate is the most serious of the Angels, an athletic ex-cop who also happens to be the trio’s master of martial arts. Smart and brilliant, she is the most grounded of the private eyes, but is also down for a good time.

It seems like a great role, one that will no doubt give tons of opportunity for dissection on race and feminism, but honestly I just can’t get enthused about it.

It’s hard for me to explain my “eh” reaction.  One the one hand, it’s great that the remake features more diversity than the hair color divide that separated the original cast of Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith and the woman behind the infamous flipped out blonde tresses, the late Farah Fawcett.  Seeing a woman of color cast and cast first in a lead role is a good thing.  But I’m not on the edge of my couch about it.

Because on the other hand- it’s 2011.  And nearly every new major show in Hollywood has a racially representative casting.  Glee had Amber Riley, hell even shows were women of color were a forced fit (Gossip Girls) had them. Maybe this is why I am numb to the first Black Charlie’s Angel, because it really isn’t a daring move but rather an expected one.

Casting black actors and actresses in television sitcoms has become a sort of appeasement.  There are few shows where who they are is terribly relevant to the role they play.  At times this is a great thing- to show a black woman could play any woman, because she was indeed capable of being anything anyone else could.

But it’s 2011 and while we still have a long way to go, I feel like it should be common knowledge that black actors, black people are as capable as our counterparts.  So these appeasement castings do not mean as much to me. I am much more excited to see indie films like I Will Follow getting their share of recognition because they represent a fresh new movement, a shift in the paradigm.

Ilonzeh is a talented actress- not just talented but a soap actress which takes relentless dedication and being ‘on’ everyday. So it’s good to see her get her due.  What’s frustrating is seeing her get a role that she has proven she can handle and have it hailed with a media ticket tape parade because of her skin color.  It’s like having someone tap you on the head and say great job for something you never doubted you were capable of doing. With all the hurrah over Ilonzeh’s casting I feel like the actress is getting a head tap for a role she’s proven moreso than anyone in her cast, that she can play. It makes me wonder: who are we really celebrating with these swelling announcements-  her hard work or Hollywood finally taking notice of it?

I don’t know if I will be tuning in to the updated version of Charlie’s Angels. But what I do know is that if I become a regular viewer, it won’t be because of how much I want to see a black woman fighting crime in heels.  It will be because it proved to be a good show, something worth spending an hour on my couch watching.  I don’t know if that’s the proper criteria anymore for choosing the television we watch, but it’s what works for me.

Clutchettes, what are your thoughts on the First Black Charlie’s Angel? Excited about it or feel like ‘eh’? Tell us what you think!

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  • Domino

    I agree with Haitian Chick. I’m sick of Hollywood always patting themselves on the back for something they should already be doing. When the Oscars ain’t so lily white then I’ll give them their dues. Its 2011, why is casting a black actress so ground breaking?

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