Spike Lee Makes A Bold Call In Updating Mars Blackmon To Reflect Changing Times

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30 years ago, Spike Lee’s first feature length film appeared in theaters, and with it came a groundbreaking depiction of Black womanhood and sexuality. She’s Gotta Have It starred Lee himself as one of the film’s male characters, a Brooklynite named Mars Blackmon whose affinity for Jordans made him so much of a cultural touchstone that he went on to star alongside Michael Jordan in commercials for his Nike sneakers. The film was a celebration of African American life and love in 1986 New York City and its contribution to Black cinema was so important, it’s been picked up to become a new Netflix series all of these decades later. Now, She’s Gotta Have It is set to break new ground all over again, this time thanks to a powerful overhaul of Mars’ character.

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Yesterday (September 28), Deadline reported that Puerto Rican American actor Anthony Ramos will be playing the role of Mars Blackmon in the Netflix adaptation of the film. The news is notable for many reasons, not the least of which is Ramos stepping into the shoes of a character whose lasting legacy is deeply rooted in his Blackness. But Ramos is no stranger to rewriting history through character play. He was part of the equally groundbreaking cast of Hamilton, the Broadway sensation which cast Black and Brown men, women, and children as Founding Fathers and other White Americans of the 1700s. Playing the roles of South Carolina statesman John Laurens as well as Alexander Hamilton’s eldest son, Philip, Ramos will once again change the face of Americana and in so doing will be reflecting the fluidity of storytelling and the changing demographics of the United States.

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The announcement of Ramos’s casting comes during Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 through October 15. According to figures mined from the 2010 Census, American citizens identifying as Hispanic or Latino are 16.3% of the population, making them the second largest racial group in the country behind Whites. In California, Hispanic and Latino ethnicities have already surpassed Whites as the lead racial demographic, a trend certain to expand in other parts of the country as time goes on. That figure does not include the millions of undocumented Americans in the country, so the actual figure is likely much higher. The cultural and economic contributions of Hispanic and Latino peoples in this country cannot be overstated (including in Hip-Hop), and Lee has taken a major step in acknowledging the importance of acknowledging that influence by literally changing the face of one of his most iconic characters.

She’s Gotta Have It will feature ten episodes directed by Lee, but further details, including who will play the film’s lead, Nola Darling, are still pending.