While details about Jessica Jones’ upcoming third season are still sparse, the latest bit of casting buzz suggests that the season might try to correct one of the show’s most glaring and problematic issues. Though Jessica Jones has consistently been one of the stronger and more interesting parts of Netflix’s branch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the series has been rightfully criticized for the ways in which it handles its (very few) characters of color.
Jessica Jones does an excellent job of depicting its white female characters as three-dimensional people with rich, complicated interior lives. But more often than not, that richness comes at the expense of the characters of color who end up being hurt or killed as a result of their connections to Jessica, Trish Walker, and Jeri Hogarth. Malcolm, for example, spends the vast majority of Jessica Jones’ first season addicted to drugs because Kilgrave sees him as an effective means of getting to Jessica. By season two, Malcolm’s clean and trying to get his life together, but it isn’t long before Trish, who knows he’s a former user, more or less forces him to inhale the same dangerous, addictive substance that briefly imbues her with super strength.
Showrunner Melissa Rosenberg has acknowledged the problem, saying that “there aren’t enough women of color in meaningful roles”—and now it seems as if she’s following up on her words with action.
We should take this with a pinch of salt, but That Hashtag Show is reporting that Jessica Jones is looking for four new series regulars, two of whom are women of color with multi-season deals:
[KEIRA] 48-52, female, please submit African American, Latina, Asian, Native American, etc. A bohemian cellist and music professor. Intelligent, wry and sexy. Self possessed and able to weather any storm. SERIES REGULAR – POSSIBLE TWO YEAR DEAL
[ZELDA] 27-31, female, African American, strong, smart and driven. A rising star in her profession with the ambition and talent to propel her to the top one day. She’s earthy, beautiful, supportive and fiercely protective of those she loves. SERIES REGULAR – MULTI-YEAR DEAL
Because casting calls often use code names so as not to spoil a show’s plot, there are any number of ways to read into who Keira and Zelda might be, but the fact that the show is specifically seeking out women of color for substantial, long-term roles is significant in and of itself.
To look at the way Hollywood still struggles to put out films and TV shows that feature diverse casts or center on the stories of historically marginalized people, one might get the impression that it was some sort of Herculean task. But that’s simply not the case. Literally all a showrunner, or really any executive with a say in the casting process, has to do is... just decide that a character is going to be Black, or a woman, or Latino, or queer, or any permutation of those identities.
It should go without saying that simply casting a non-white person is only part of the solution—the character still needs to be crafted thoughtfully so that the actor has something good to work with. But at the very least, Jessica Jones is taking the first step toward making sure that the next time we catch up with the boozy PI, her world will better reflect the one we actually live in.