The struggle is real. Because ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ was an ensemble film, most of the characters didn’t really get to shine that much, but generally, most had a few moments in the spotlight. This was key as that movie introduced recast versions of many of the seminal X-Men, who had previously been portrayed by different actors. One of these newer, younger roles was Storm, one of the most important mutants in the team’s long history. Alexandra Shipp, an X-Men fan from childhood, landed the role and, unfortunately, it wasn’t the cause for celebration that Shipp had hoped for.
“[I tweeted back] at people who criticized me for not having dark enough skin for my role in X-Men because we’re not going to have this conversation about a cartoon character. You’re not going to tell me that my skin color doesn’t match a Crayola from 1970. Growing up, when I was reading the comics, I pictured her looking like me. For any black girl, for there to be a black superhero, we picture them looking like us. So when I auditioned for the role, I wasn’t like, “Oh man, I’m not dark enough.” I was like, “Finally, this is my moment.” I’m not playing Harriet Tubman with a prosthetic nose and darkening my skin tone. I would never do that.
“The time is up for people in this industry being opinionless…. If I was sitting here giving you all the answers you wanted to hear, keeping my political [beliefs] to myself, I would be acting. And that would be a really boring interview.”
In the comics, Storm is half-American, half-Kenyan, but spent most of her life in Africa. However, for the first ‘X-Men’ movie, all-American, “caramel” (according to Lena Waithe) Halle Berry was cast. While her performance was… shaky at times– does she have an accent or not?!— she projected enough confidence that she sold her version of Storm through four ‘X-Men’ movies.
And even with all the time shuffling in this film series, technically, Shipp is playing the same person as Berry. Why should she suddenly have dark Nubian skin?
The coloration of characters in comics is just shorthand. All Caucasians are colored the same, despite the fact that all people of all races have different complexions. For example, redheads tend to have paler skin, but traditionally Jean Grey, Banshee etc. have had the same complexions as other Caucasians. It wasn’t until J.H. Williams III began illustrating ‘Batwoman’ and coloring her skin porcelain white, that that reality was addressed. So of course, Storm was colored with the same brown ink that colorists used for every other black character, like Black Panther, Luke Cage, etc. But in reality, her skin could be any shade from tan to deep Nubian. As Shipp said, she’s a “cartoon character.”
Like it or not, Shipp will return as Storm in ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ which will be released on Valentines Day, February 14, 2019. This marks the feature directorial debut of Simon Kinberg and also stars Jessica Chastain, Ato Essandoh, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Evan Peters, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Sophie Turner.