Ethnic Ambiguity – Part 1 – Featured Article

Written by | The Business of Acting

Casting director Catrine McGregor, shares with us a casting buzz word that you need to know!

The casting “buzz words” lately are ethnic ambiguity. Like all trends, ethnic ambiguity may eventually be a term of the past, but for the time being, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed actor is going to face frustrations on many projects, as they lose parts to their brown-haired fellow actors.

Casting directors, producers, and directors would rather be guessing whether an actor is of Armenian/Egyptian/Costa Rican descent rather than Swedish/Norwegian/Finnish.

Jessica Alba by Steve Granitz/

The trend is certainly due to many things, including the bucking of the system, in steering away from the long-time monopoly of the Aryan-looking actor getting the lead roles. The Robert Redfords, Meryl Streeps, and Jodie Fosters are facing the likes of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jessica Alba, and Rashida Jones.

As the film industry grew, awareness of ethnic diversity and sensitivity did not grow with it. John Wayne movies were full of very “Anglo” Native Americans. Iron Eyes Cody helped launch the anti-littering campaign when one solitary tear rolled down his cheek as he looked over a dump. It was a touching moment seen through the eyes of the people who once owned this land. But even Iron Eyes Cody was not Native-American. He was Greek.

One example of blatantly strange casting, to say the least, is John Wayne playing Genghis Khan or Burt Lancaster, Chuck Connors, and many other Caucasian actors playing Native-Americans. Imagine hearing on ET that Samuel L. Jackson will be playing George Washington, but the makeup department will lighten his skin so that he “can pass.”  As offensive as that sounds, it is no different than Chuck Connors having his skin darkened to play a Native-American.

On a positive note, today’s teens are less aware, typically, of racial impropriety simply because they are less racist than past generations. A teen actor that you would all know, but will remain nameless so that I can continue to live, was devastated when he posted a video online of a funny makeup tutorial in which he was being made up as a popular black singer. When he got shade from people for doing a “blackface” video, he wasn’t even aware of that term.

The pendulum is always swinging, and has currently swung away from the rule of the Caucasian and has swung towards ethnic diversity.

I crave the day when casting will truly be talent-based. Period. As a casting director myself, I love to cast against type. If a project calls for, say, a librarian, my mind does not go to an older lady with her gray hair pulled back in a bun. Why can’t a Rastafarian be a librarian, or a little person, etc… I find casting in this way to be far more interesting.

When the editor decided that do an article on ethnic diversity, I thought of Waverly Fremgen. She is a talented, beautiful, sweet young actress. Looking at her, she is the definition of “ethnic diversity”, and because she is adopted, she actually did not know her ethnic heritage. kindly did a DNA test for Waverly, and we have the results, which will be released in two weeks. Until then, we’d like for you to guess what her heritage is. (NOW CLOSED) The person who comes closest to guessing her actual heritage will win a six-month membership to Casting Calls America and have the local acting jobs come to you! Check them out here:


We thank for providing their cutting-edge DNA testing service, AncestryDNA to us! AncestryDNA can revolutionize the way you look at your ethnic roots and find new family connections. You get started by ordering your kit at and follow the easy-to-follow instructions. After giving a small saliva sample and mailing it back, it’s analyzed at more than 700,000 genetic markers. Within 6-8 weeks, you’ll be emailed a link to view your results! AncestryDNA can also lead you to an ancestor you might have never found!

Part two of ethnic ambiguity is now avalible here!



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Last modified: October 17, 2017

11 Responses to :
Ethnic Ambiguity – Part 1 – Featured Article

  1. Kit says:

    Perhaps she has ethnic ties to Armenians.

  2. Dyan says:


  3. Roza Matevosian says:

    Native American, African American and Irish mix.

  4. Jason James says:

    I believe she is German, Greek, Italian and Egyptian.

  5. Christopher William Pearson says:

    Waverly Fremgen’s ethnicity looks to be a descendent of at least 60% Italian, 25% Spaniard,10% English, and 5% Hungarian.

  6. I’m going to guess that she is Portuguese and Brazilian!

  7. Kim Schwarzkopf says:

    Guessing her ancestors are Indigenous Australian/Aboriginal and maybe Southern European? It would be really nice to see more ethnically ambiguous actors! Thanks for the article.

  8. Leilani Haywood says:

    I’m so glad that the industry moving towards more diversity. When I watch TV, the running joke has always been that I don’t exist lol. Not one part Hawaiian/Filipino/Spanish/English woman or may they are their but I don’t know. Since my husband is African-American, my sons have passed for being Hispanic, Middle Eastern etc because you can’t tell what’s their ethnicity. I’ve always wondered why Bible movies don’t have people that look Hebrew or Middle eastern but Europeans with English accents. Drives me crazy.

  9. Gabriel Kirk says:

    I would say she is probably Afro-Latin descent from the Caribbean: Spanish. African, and.Native Amerindian blood from Puerto Rico 🇵🇷

  10. Lyndsey beaupre says:

    Egyptian and Native American

  11. Issabella Sanchez says:

    It’s a toss up Egyptian or Greek maybe??!!

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