MONTREAL — A few hours ahead of the premiere of “Escouade 99,” the Quebec adaptation of the American sitcom “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” showrunner Patrick Huard finally broke his silence about the whitewashing controversy surrounding the show.
Cuban-American actress Melissa Fumero, who plays Amy Santiago on the original “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” caused a stir last month when she asked why her character was played by a white actress in the French-language remake. Another Latina character, Rosa Diaz, was also recast as a white woman.
Her comments sparked a controversy, with many fans expressing disappointment that the Quebec version would lose some of the original show’s diversity.
This Wednesday, ahead of the media premiere of his new show, showrunner Patrick Huard (best known to English audiences for his role in “Bon Cop, Bad Cop”) opened up about the decision for the first time. While he insisted that he did not “consciously” whitewash the characters, he conceded that he and his team “might not have taken decisions that were in line with people’s expectations.”
“We always have challenges, and sometimes our focus isn’t where people expect it to be,” he told reporters.
He said that trying to make a show that was set outside of Montreal and “represented the whole of Quebec” had been challenging. “To be a French-speaking artist in North American is a challenge in itself,” he said. “And opening the door to diversity and to other communities is another.”
Without explicitly apologizing, Huard took “full responsibility” for the casting process. “I’m the one who did the casting, and I did so rigorously,” he said.
“When someone auditions for me, it doesn’t last eight minutes. We work with each person for an hour and people are covered in sweat by the time they get out of there,” he explained.
“I’m a perfectionist about that. I saw a lot of people, and the ones who are in the show are the best ones I found. They are the best to play each character, and to bring this group to life.”
Watch: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” star Melissa Fumero calls out the whitewashing on Quebec’s remake of the show. Story continues below.
Huard brought up cult sitcoms like “Friends” and “Cheers” to explain why it was so important to him that the actors he selected had chemistry as a group.
He also denounced the online harassment directed at actresses Mylène Mackay (who plays Fanny, the character based on Amy) and Bianca Gervais (Rosalie, the Quebec version of Rosa) following Fumero’s comments.
“I’m responsible. If you need to be angry, be angry at me. But harassing the actresses who agreed to take on those parts on social media is unacceptable,” he said.
“I’m willing to listen with all my heart to what people are going through, to the feelings they have about the choices we made. I stand by them. I am proud of what we did. I am proud of the result.”
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