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New Netflix Docuseries ‘Queen Cleopatra’ Color Corrects History “I Don’t Care What They Tell You in School, Cleopatra was Black”

  Adele James as Cleopatra   A new Netflix docuseries from executive producer Jada Pinkett Smith, as part of the  African Queens  series, su...

 Adele James as Cleopatra


A new Netflix docuseries from executive producer Jada Pinkett Smith, as part of the African Queens series, suggests Cleopatra’s ancestry may be African.

And though her racial makeup has been argued by historians for years, Pinkett Smith’s portrayal as African is at odds with historic study of the Egyptian Queen.

The official Netflix trailer:

Netflix shares:

With African Queens, a new docuseries from executive producer Jada Pinkett Smith, audiences get to learn about the fearless, captivating lives of queens who were likely not part of their Western academic curriculum. The latest installment features one of history’s most famous, powerful and misunderstood women: Queen Cleopatra. Though Cleopatra’s life has been the subject of much debate and lore, the new series hopes to reassess this part of her fascinating story — including her love life — in a brand new way, and also highlight one of Cleopatra’s strongest weapons: her intellect.

“This particular project went through many different machinations, but it started with Willow… I really wanted to represent Black women,” Pinkett Smith tells Tudum. “We don’t often get to see or hear stories about Black queens, and that was really important for me, as well as for my daughter, and just for my community to be able to know those stories because there are tons of them! The sad part is that we don’t have ready access to these historical women who were so powerful and were the backbones of African nations.”

Who plays Queen Cleopatra?

In the series, Queen Cleopatra is played by Adele James (Casualty). The creative choice to cast a biracial actor to play Cleopatra is a nod to the centuries-long conversation about the ruler’s race. During the time of her reign, Egypt’s population was multicultural and multiracial. Cleopatra’s race was unlikely to be documented, and the identities of her mother and paternal grandparents weren’t known. Some speculate she was a native Egyptian woman while others say she was Greek.

“Given that Cleopatra represents herself as an Egyptian, it seems strange to insist on depicting her as wholly European,” says Sally Ann Ashton, an expert who was interviewed in the series. “Cleopatra ruled in Egypt long before the Arab settlement in North Africa. If the maternal side of her family were indigenous women, they would’ve been African, and this should be reflected in contemporary representations of Cleopatra.”

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