I love English period pieces, but of course, as a Black woman, it’s not like I see a lot of folks who look like me in said films or TV shows. The only time I might see someone who looks like me is if there’s a footman or a free Black man or woman for “the very special episode.” Harlots, in fact, is one of the few period shows that features Black characters in a prominent capacity.
HOWEVER, the lack of melanin that drives me up the wall is about to change thanks to Mr. Malcolm’s List!
The short was directed by Emma Holly Jones and produced by Refinery29, Rebelle Media and Untitled Entertainment. Here’s the synopsis:
Set in early 1800’s England, a young lady (Gemma Chan) engages in courtship with a mysterious wealthy suitor, Mr. Malcolm (Sope Dirisu), unaware of his unattainable list of demands for his future wife. Written by Suzanne Allain, based on her script and novel of the same name, and directed by Emma Holly Jones, the romantic comedy stars Sope Dirisu, Gemma Chan, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, and Freida Pinto.YouTube
Mr. Malcolm’s List was produced as a way to highlight female filmmakers as part of Shatterbox’s short film series. According to Refinery29:
In 2017, only 8% of top 100 films were directed by women. Refinery29 is dedicated to change that. Shatterbox is an award-winning short-film series dedicated to spotlighting the voices of female filmmakers, and providing emerging and established talent the support and opportunity to realize their vision and reach new audiences through storytelling. Born as a rallying cry to counteract staggering industry statistics, the series champions gender parity storytelling in Hollywood, both on and off the screen.Refinery29
You can watch the entire short film here:
As you can see, this isn’t your normal period piece. We have actors of color playing characters in high society London! Some might call the move part of “the liberal agenda,” but in my view (and in my research), the short film highlights how 1800s England was more diverse than we have ever seen in the media.
Now the short film is being turned into a feature film, with Chan and Pinto reprising their roles! WHOO! Hopefully, this also means that Dirisu and the other actors of color in this short film are reprising their roles as well, because we need a black Mr. Malcolm!
According to Deadline:
“…Mr. Malcolm’s List will cast color consciously, using a culturally diverse cast to reclaim historical narratives that are traditionally played by white actors. Mr. Malcolm’s List is one of the highest-rated scripts on The Black List website and is accompanied by an award-winning podcast of the same name.”Deadline
According to Deadline, Refinery will be the feature film’s executive producer along with Elizabeth producer Alison Owen. Laura Rister for Untitled and Laura Lewis for Rebelle will also produce. Both Rister and Lewis commented on the Jones’ new take on period dramas.
“…Emma Holly Jones crafted a fresh and modern take on this genre, one that brought chills to all of us, and helped us gain the attention of Refinery29 and this amazing cast. If I could only work on projects with such a bold spin, I’d be a happy producer!” said Rister. “Having the opportunity, in partnership with Refinery29, to support a filmmaker and her vision in this way, and to enable the film to get made is a dream.”
“…Emma’s bold vision for this project immediately piqued our interest, because it shook up the traditional narrative,” said Lewis. “We are proud to re-team with this fantastic group behind our short film to bring this romantic, funny and innovative feature film to life.”
Refinery29’s Chief Content Officer Amy Emmerich said in a statement that “Mr. Malcolm’s List is the perfect example of quality content created through an inclusive, intersectional lens. Emma Holly Jones is a force with a fresh voice–we’re so honored to be an incubator for her talent and this story, and are thrilled to support this story as a feature-length film.”
I’m so excited for this film! I’ve been waiting for a film like this to come for a long time. Whenever this film comes to the theaters, I’m going to be there to see it opening day.