As docudrama series Queen Cleopatra arrives on Netflix, its star Adele James has opened up about playing the title role and the impact she hopes her portrayal of the character will have on young people.


Speaking exclusively with, James was asked what she thinks its will mean for young girls of colour to see her playing Cleopatra.

She said: "I hope that it will be empowering. I hope that at Halloween there'll be little girls all over the world with these kind of crazy shapes on their head – the way that they managed to build these incredible shapes with my hair for the show, these beautiful outfits.

Adele James as Cleopatra in Queen Cleopatra.
Adele James as Cleopatra in Queen Cleopatra. Netflix

"I just hope it will help people to feel seen and feel powerful and feel worthy and all the things that everybody deserves to feel, and just really feel seen."

James's casting in the role of Cleopatra has proved controversial for some, with the announcement that James, a Black biracial actress, would play the role met with backlash in Egypt.

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Some have argued that Egyptian history has been 'falsified', and the Egyptian Government released a statement saying that artefacts and coins of the time proved that Cleopatra possessed a "light complexion" with Greek "Hellenistic characteristics".

On this backlash, James told "I think people's anger is quite misplaced for the fact that it's a docudrama. So you know, there is a documentary element to it. There's academic research to support the casting choice, and also while I absolutely am of Black ethnic heritage, my mum is white, so I'm a mixed race actress.

"I'm a biracial actress playing a potentially, based on academic research, biracial historical figure. So for me, it's a bit frustrating and upsetting obviously, but also it reduces the whole series to one element of what we're trying to talk about here and I think that's just a shame. I'm glad that the tide is turning away from that a little bit now."

Meanwhile, director Tina Gharavi also hit back at critics of the casting, saying that "it's more likely that Cleopatra looked like Adele [James] than Elizabeth Taylor ever did".

Additional reporting by Grace Henry.

Queen Cleopatra premieres on Netflix on Wednesday 10th May 2023. Sign up for Netflix from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

Check out more of our Documentaries coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.


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