Scarlett Johansson says comments she made about being able to play any type of character amid a trend of “political correctness” within the casting world have been taken out of context.
The actress, 34, saw renewed focus this weekend on a year-old casting controversy after she told As If magazine that she believed that, as an actor, she should be “allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job.”
The statement struck a nerve for some, considering Johansson stepped down from a role as a transgender man in the movie Rub & Tug last summer amid calls for the character to be played by a trans actor.
In a statement to PEOPLE from her rep, Johansson said that while she stands by her quotes in As If, they were “edited for click bait” and “widely taken out of context” by outlets who reported on the interview.
“An interview that was recently published has been edited for click bait and is widely taken out of context. The question I was answering in my conversation with the contemporary artist, David Salle, was about the confrontation between political correctness and art. I personally feel that, in an ideal world, any actor should be able to play anybody and Art, in all forms, should be immune to political correctness,” she said in the statement.
“That is the point I was making, albeit didn’t come across that way. I recognize that in reality, there is a wide spread discrepancy amongst my industry that favors Caucasian, cis gendered actors and that not every actor has been given the same opportunities that I have been privileged to. I continue to support and always have, diversity in every industry and will continue to fight for projects where everyone is included,” Johansson continued.
Johansson was interviewed by the artist Salle for As If’s spring/summer 2019 issue, and the two spoke of how the star admires Golden Age actors like James Dean and Natalie Wood for the “unapologetic showcase of emotion” in their performances.
That led to a discussion about different acting trends in Hollywood today, and Johansson mentioned casting trends and the way on-screen representation has evolved.
“Today there’s a lot of emphasis and conversation about what acting is and who we want to see represent ourselves on screen. The question now is, what is acting anyway?” she said to the publication. “You know, as an actor, I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job.”
When Salle responded by asking if actors were expected to stay in their lane and play only characters that represented their gender or ethnicity, Johansson responded, “There are a lot of social lines being drawn now, and a lot of political correctness is being reflected in art.”
Johansson continued, “I feel like it’s a trend in my business and it needs to happen for various social reasons, yet there are times it does get uncomfortable when it affects the art because I feel art should be free of restrictions.”
The interview was published one year after she announced she would “respectfully withdraw” her participation in Rub & Tug.
“Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues,” Johansson said in a statement at the time.
In May, GLAAD released a report that found that not a single one of the 110 films released in 2018 featured a transgender character. TV fared slightly better, with shows like Pose and Supergirl leading the charge.
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