This week, fans of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” were treated to the first trailer of the Quebec adaptation, “Escouade 99.” The project has been highly anticipated since it was announced last year, so it’s no surprise the trailer had hundreds of thousands of views within a few hours of its release.
Actress Melissa Fumero, who plays Amy Santiago in the original version, was visibly thrilled to see the first images, saying it was “like peeking through another dimension.”
She was less enthusiastic, however, about the choice of a white actress, Mylène Mackay, to play her character. In the original version, Fumero’s character comes from a Cuban-American family, and the actress herself is of Cuban descent.
But in “Escouade 99,” Amy Santiago is renamed Fanny and is no longer racialized. Another Latina character, Rosa Diaz, is also played by a white actress, Bianca Gervais, and renamed Rosalie.
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” has been celebrated for its diversity and commitment to inclusion. Responding to Fumero’s tweet, many Latinas pointed out how empowering it felt to finally see themselves represented on American television.
While the characters of Rosa and Amy appear to lose their heritage in “Escouade 99,” the roles of Captain Ray Holt and Lieutenant Terry Jeffords — portrayed by Black actors Andre Braugher and Terry Crews in the English version — are being played by Black Quebecers.
Lack of diversity on Quebec television has been a hot topic in the province, especially in the wake of renewed attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. Last month, organizers of the Artis gala, which celebrates the most popular names on Quebec television, came under fire for their overwhelmingly white list of nominees. Last year, after similar criticism, the president of the province’s Union des artistes, Sophie Prégent, had said that the lack of diversity was “hurtful,” since some 15 per cent of the union’s members are second-generation immigrants.
Friday, after Quebec media covered her initial comments, Fumero took to Twitter to double down, saying she had been “thinking about this a lot.” She noted that, while she understood that the province doesn’t have a very large Latino community (according to Statistics Canada data from 2016, there are approximately 133,000 people who identify as Latin American in the province), the roles of Amy and Rosa “could’ve gone to any BIPOC, so it’s disappointing to see that missed opportunity.”
She also took a moment to mention that she did not hold a grudge towards actresses Mackay and Gervais, pointing out that “it’s up to the decision makers.”
“Lastly,” she added, “if the show is successful, I hope the creators take that opportunity to hire more BIPOC in supporting and guest roles.”
Showrunner Patrick Huard (“Bon Cop, Bad Cop”) has not commented on the situation.
With files from Jean-François Vandeuren, HuffPost Québec