The British actor Ben Whishaw made headlines last week when he was cast as Freddie Mercury in the much-anticipated, much-delayed upcoming biopic of the singer’s life. Whishaw is many things — including an experienced stage actor — but what he’s not is South Asian or Persian.
In recent years, journalists and academics have been putting more of an emphasis on Mercury’s ethnic and cultural identity (including here on The Aerogram.) The 2010 abstract for a talk given on the Zanzibar-born, India-bred singer at that year’s EMP Pop Conference sums it up nicely:
The multiple (open) closets in which he worked and his subversive musical and visual content should have long ago prompted a total re-examination of the assumed whiteness, Western-ness and straight-ness of the rock front “man” mythology.
To that end, we thought we’d compile a brief list of South Asian actors who could have been cast as Mercury in the yet untitled biopic. Feel free to post your suggestions in the comments.
Best Known Roles: Saleem Sinai in 2013’s Midnight’s Children and Shivrang on the hit show New Girl.
Unique Advantage He Would Have Brought to the Role: The biracial actor was born to a German Jewish mother and an Indian Parsi father, so he shares something of a cultural background with Mercury (whose parents were both Parsis.)
Best Known Roles: Dhawan played Manmeet on the short-lived NBC series Outsourced and originated the role of Akthar in Alan Bennett‘s play The History Boys. (He’d go on to also play Akthar in the 2006 film adaptation of the play.)
Best Known Roles: Floyd (who is half Indian-Singaporean and half British) won the Best Newcomer Award last year at the British Independent Film Awards for his role in My Brother The Devil.
Unique Advantage He Would Have Brought to the Role: He’s played Freddie before! Floyd portrayed everybody’s favorite Parsi rock star in The Best Possible Taste.
Best Known Roles: Jaffrey may be best known to American viewers for his role as Dev Sundaram, Katharine McPhee’s fiancé on the NBC musical drama Smash.
Unique Advantage He Would Have Brought to the Role: Jaffrey is an accomplished singer and stage actor who played the lead role in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Bombay Dreams.