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‘Hamilton’ Casting Gets Dragged Into TV Company’s Discrimination Suit

Could White actors gain the ability to sue creators for ‘reverse discrimination’? One legal team thinks so.

'Hamilton' Casting Gets Dragged Into TV Company's Discrimination Suit
Hamilton sign at the Richard Rogers Theater in Times Square, New York City, February 25, 2018 | Credit: Andrew Cline / Shutterstock.com

Charter Communications, one of the largest cable operators in the nation, used the race of actors in the Broadway hit Hamilton as a defense to combat a discrimination lawsuit, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The television company was hit with a $10 billion lawsuit by Byron Allen, CEO of Entertainment studios in 2015. The Black executive claimed Charter refused to carry any content owned by his studio because of his race. The filing has survived a motion to dismiss and a review by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Attorneys for Charter filed a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court to dismiss the suit on March 8. In the petition, they argued that the claim violated the company’s First Amendment rights and used Hamilton to support the positioning.

The musical, which debuted in August 2015, is a hip-hop infused telling of the life of American statesman Alexander Hamilton. It was written by Puerto Rican lyricist, playwright and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda. The cultural juggernaut featured Blacks and Latinos portraying the Founding Fathers and their contemporaries. Hamilton won a Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2016. Despite the widespread recognition, it was also criticized for reverse discrimination for posting casting calls in search of “non-White” actors.

“A refusal to contract with a white actor to play George Washington cannot be made an antidiscrimination violation without profoundly undermining First Amendment values,” the law team stated.

Attorneys alleged that if Allen’s suit is allowed to move forward, White actors would also be able to sue Miranda for failure to cast them in Hamilton.

 “[I]t would allow even an objectively terrible white actor to bring an action for being denied a part in Hamilton even if factors other than race would provide an obvious explanation for why the actor would not get a part as a Founding Father in the minority cast of Hamilton (or in any kind of cast for any other play),” the court doc read in conclusion. “Left in place, the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning will have a devastating chilling effect on the free speech rights of all speech platforms—from magazines, to websites, to bookstores and theaters—that select and promote speech originally produced by others.”

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