When Nicole Kidman was cast as Lucille Ball in Aaron Sorkin’s Being The Ricardos, people on social media acted like she’d said she kicks puppies. There were hundreds of tweets saying Kidman was poorly cast. Debra Messing started trending on Twitter, with many suggesting that she would’ve been the better choice to play the silver screen legend. And it turns out that Kidman, despite not being very active on social media, wasn’t immune to the harsh and very loud criticism.
During an appearance on Live With Kelly And Ryan, the actor said the backlash made her consider dropping out of the film. “When the reality of playing her hit me, I went, ‘What I have said yes to?’ To which I then went, ‘Oh no, I’m not right. Everyone thinks I’m not right, so I’m going to try to sidestep this,” she explained.
But she was convinced to stay: “The producer Todd Black and Aaron Sorkin were both like, ‘Absolutely not.’ I was in Australia and they were like, ‘No.’ And thank God, because then I was so grateful because I got to fall in love with her.”
The trailer did manage to convince some that Kidman wasn’t a bad pick, with the actor looking like an uncanny valley version of Ball, and trying her hardest to get the voice right (it’s not quite there, but it’s passable enough).
Now, the main casting issue people are concerned about is that Javier Bardem—who is from Spain—is playing Desi Arnaz, who was Cuban. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Sorkin defended his decision, claiming it’s not wrong to cast a non-Latinx actor in a Latino role:
“I want to tell you my opinion on this and I stand by it, which is this: Spanish and Cuban aren’t actable, OK? They’re not actable. By the way, neither are straight and gay. Because I know there’s a small movement underway that only gay actors should play gay characters. Gay and straight aren’t actable. You could act being attracted to someone, but most nouns aren’t actable.”
“We know that blackface is demeaning because of its historical context, because you’re making ridiculous cartoon caricatures out of people. We know that Mickey Rooney with the silly piece in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and that makeup, doing silly Japanese speak, we know that’s demeaning. This is not, I felt,” he continued. “Having an actor who was born in Spain playing a character who was born in Cuba was not demeaning. And it wasn’t just the casting consultant who agreed, Lucy and Desi’s Cuban American daughter didn’t have a problem with it. So, I’m very comfortable with it.”