My Seven Top Five Jane Austen Adaptations Starring Actors of Color

December is fast approaching, and with it my Austen-tatious Readathon! A few of the prompts are actually things to watch rather than read, and one of them is an Austen adaptation starring BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) actors. If you are planning to participate, I’ve collected a few of my favorites here!

Pride & Prejudice: Atlanta

This Lifetime Original was honestly a bit hit-and-miss for me, but I still found a lot to love in this modern take on Pride & Prejudice. The Bennets are an African-American family in Atlanta, and Lizzie and Darcy are an activist and a politician, respectively, who clash over politics, family drama, and social misunderstandings. Leads Tiffany Hines and Juan Antonio, as well as Jackée Harry as a more reasonable but still hilarious Mrs. Bennet, are definitely the standouts.

Watch it on: Sling or Amazon

Emma Approved

After the success of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Emma got the Bernie Su webseries treatment with the Emmy-winning Emma Approved, starring Japanese-American actress Joanna Sotomura, who is pitch-perfect in the title role. This modern Emma Woodhouse runs a successful lifestyle consulting business with longtime family friend Alex Knightley. The vlog conceit gets a little murky in this series, but it’s still thoroughly enjoyable.

Fun fact: Joanna Sotomura once commented on one of my Instagram posts about the 2020 Emma and I nearly died.

Watch it on: YouTube

Rational Creatures

Another webseries, this adaptation of Persuasion is a more dramatic take on the source material than either LBD or Emma Approved. It stars Latina actress Kristina Pupo as Ana Elias, Anne Elliot’s modern counterpart. Much of the main cast and creative team are also Latinx/Latine, and the story is LGBTQ+ inclusive, making Rational Creatures “the modern, inclusive Jane Austen story you didn’t know you wanted.”

Watch it on: YouTube

Kandukondain Kandukondain (I Have Found It)

Four years before Bride & Prejudice (which you’ll also find on this list), Aishwarya Rai starred in this true Bollywood adaptation of Sense & Sensibility. Almost all of the dialogue is in Tamil, making this maybe a slightly tougher watch if you’re not used to subtitles, but it’s well worth it. Austen’s stories tend to work astonishingly well when set in modern India.

Watch it on: YouTube

Aisha

This modern Bollywood take on Emma is a fun, funny, and colorful romp. (I’m trying not to be too mortified that I just unironically used the word “romp.”) There’s definitely a Clueless vibe, especially with Aisha’s voiceover commentary, high fashion wardrobe, and her charming, well, cluelessness. This is another you’ll want to watch with subtitles, as most of the dialogue is in Hindi.

Watch it on: YouTube

The Cate Morland Chronicles

Yes, yet another webseries, this one a modern take on Northanger Abbey. Cate Morland is a brand new entertainment journalist, and she’s a fan girl of all things geeky. Her favorite fandom? The cult favorite TV series The Mysteries of Udolpho. In this update, Henry Tilney is an actor who once starred in Cate’s favorite show. Henry and Eleanor (who is Henry’s publicist rather than his sister) are both played by Black actors, Dele Opeifa and Erika Ovuoba, respectively.

Watch it on: YouTube

Bride & Prejudice

No cap, this is my second favorite Pride & Prejudice adaptation (after the 2005 film, naturally). Yes, some of the songs are cheesy. Yes the pacing gets a little weird in some parts. Yes, they completely left out Kitty. But I love this movie so, so much. I legitimately want to go watch it right now, as I write this.

Watch it on: YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, or iTunes (rental fees)

Bonus: Sanditon

Sanditon is the only work in which Jane Austen explicitly described a character as a person of color (though there are characters in other works whom I would argue have sub-textual evidence for being people of color). Georgiana Lambe is an heiress of mixed African and English heritage. The 2019 TV series features Miss Lambe as a prominent character, and she is played by Crystal Clarke.

Watch it on: PBS Passport or Amazon


In my hope to do what I can to make the Jane Austen fandom a safe, inclusive space for everyone, I can see that there is still a long way to go. I think Austen’s works transcend time, place, and culture, yet there are still many fans who feel excluded from the fandom.

These adaptations I’ve discussed are perhaps good signs that we are moving toward more inclusivity, but it’s notable that, except for Sanditon, they are all modern adaptations. Will we ever get a Regency-set adaptation starring actors of color?

Maybe Austen’s future adapters will take a cue from Bridgerton and employ color-conscious casting. Or maybe Austen scholarship around characters who could plausibly, “authentically,” be people of color will make its way into the mainstream, and into the next adaptation of Austen’s work.

Of course, this is not a magical solution to the racism and other discrimination still faced by many Austen fans within the fandom itself. Bianca Hernandez, a prominent Austen social media and content creator, has posted several resources for confronting this, which you can find on her Instagram.


Find the full list of prompts for the Austen-tatious Readathon here.

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