The Trailer For ‘Still Star-Crossed’, The New Shonda Rhimes Romeo & Juliet Drama, Looks Completely Excellent
Good news for fans of love triangles, intrigue, backstabbing, and gorgeous period costumes: Shonda Rhimes’ new show Still Star-Crossed is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Based on a 2013 novel by Melinda Taub, Still Star-Crossed takes place after Romeo and Juliet, following the feuding Montagues and Capulets as they try to deal with the loss of their children (oh, and gain control of Verona, of course). The show, which will air on ABC but doesn’t have a set premiere date yet, stars relative newcomers Lashana Lynch as Rosaline, Wade Briggs as Benvolio, and Sterling Suleiman as Prince Escalus.
If you know your Shakespeare or remember the modern classic that is Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation, you’ll recognize Rosaline as the former object of Romeo’s affection, Benvolio as Romeo’s cousin and friend, and the Prince as the fairly clueless member of royalty who tries unsuccessfully to stop the families from killing each other. Shonda Rhimes’ treatment, as seen in drama-fests How to Get Away With Murder and Scandal, moves these side characters into the spotlight, letting us know what’s been going on behind the scenes of Romeo and Juliet’s teenage romance.
This being a Shondaland production, Still Star-Crossed won’t force audiences to sit through yet another all-white period drama. Lynch and Suleiman are both black, and their casting is an argument for giving talented people of color engaging, three-dimensional, classy roles.
In fact, much of the cast list is a roster of talent of color. There’s Zuleikha Robinson, aka, Gaia from Rome, as Lady Capulet. The excellently named Lucien Laviscount plays Romeo, the even more excellently named Gregg Chillin is Mercutio, and Shahzad Latif is Juliet’s cousin Tybalt in what I’m assuming are flashbacks. Medalion Rahimi portrays new character Princess Isabella (possibly a political rival/competing love interest for the Prince?).
As we hear more about Still Star-Crossed, there will probably be rumblings from the more racist corners of the Internet. “This was Renaissance Italy! People in those social circles wouldn’t have been black! It’s so inaccurate!” Of course this shit is on the way. Guess what? People in Renaissance Italy didn’t communicate exclusively in English either, but for some reason no one ever has a problem with that. The characters in Still Star-Crossed and Romeo and Juliet are fictional, too, and the stories take place in an Italy that pretty much only existed in Shakespeare’s/Taub’s/Rhimes’ mind.
Besides, even ~back then~, Shakespeare knew that black people could rise to positions of great prominence in Italy, as they did elsewhere in Europe. He wrote a whole play about it: Othello, The Moor of Venice. You know, one of the great tragic works of Western theater, which relies on the fact that actual Italy had black and Middle Eastern people living there in real life (who some sources now think included Alessandro de’Medici, from one of Renaissance Italy’s most powerful families).
Still Star-Crossed looks like it’ll be a unique reminder of this history, as well as bringing the drama and scheming Rhimes does so well. Whether it delivers remains to be seen, but one way or the other, it’s definitely going to be one hell of a show.