Shonda Rhimes, the creative force behind mega-hit TV shows “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” challenges European cultural and historical constructs with her new series “Still Star-Crossed,” featuring a majority black cast.
The Emmy-nominated producer’s newest creation, which debuted May 29 on ABC, is centered around a pre-Renaissance Europe, picking up where Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” left off — Prince of Verona, and the warring houses of the Capulets and Montagues boiling with hatred for one another after the untimely suicide of the two star-crossed teenage lovers.
The series stars newcomers Sterling Sulieman, Ebonee Noel, Wade Briggs, Torrance Coombs and British-Caribbean Lashana Lynch (best known for her role in the teen sports drama “Fast Girls”) as female lead Rosaline Capulet.
“Rosaline is bold, fierce, a feminist, ahead of her time,” Lynch said in a statement. “She’s fiery, she speaks her mind, she’s a feminist she’s forthright and at that time for a woman that’s just unheard of. She does a lot to try and stay in line but she’s also contested with her lover which means she’ll have to go against the grain to do what’s right.”
Lynch’s character, which is Juliet’s cousin, is betrothed to marry a Montague in order to restore peace in their shared home of Verona. Though this may sound rather simple, a plot twist arises upon realization that Rosaline is actually in love with someone else.
Prince Escalus (played by Sulieman of “Pretty Little Liars,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “All My Children”), the hidden love interest of Rosaline, orders Rosaline to marry Benvolio to prevent the outbreak of war.
However, not only does Rosaline loathe Benvolio (Briggs), but she is also in turmoil over leaving her younger sister Livia (Noel) in the Capulet household with the abrasive Lady Capulet.
The scene is set in illustrious Italy (though actually filmed in Spain) with over-the-top stage sets, opulent hand-stitched garments, and secluded European locations. The show is one of the most expensive productions in the network’s history.
Pulling away from the traditional thoughts of European history, Rhimes’ diverse cast and drama-filled tale of love and power is sure to win a wide variety of viewers over, including Lynch.
”I didn’t expect the states to jump ahead and create a period drama for themselves, especially Shakespeare,” Lynch said. “It was previously unheard of, but now that this has happened or is happening, it is changing the way people think in terms of casting a classical piece of television or film. And once you get past that hurdle, then I think people will start to expect it more.”