Much has been made of the future of the James Bond franchise for, well, for years at this point: ever since it became obvious that Daniel Craig’s heart really wasn’t in the role, that he’d rather be starring in much more interesting movies instead of these and where he’d keep promising that the new movie would be his last… right up until the studio would throw just the right amount of money in his general direction to make him show back up to the set to make another one. And especially now that Craig has made it impossibly clear that this really, REALLY will be his last turn as the iconic 007 – a decision which coincides with increasing exasperation at the direction the franchise has taken, by myself and others, and a pressing need to reinvent the Cod War era, pro-colonialist, white bread superspy for a younger generation of moviegoers whose go-to ideas of badass spy start with Nick Fury, trace through Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt and Jack Bauer before pretty much ending with tired, old, well-worn James Bond.
And, to be sure, the film press has gotten a lot of millage out of fancasting the new James Bond. Given the characters uncomfortable connections with historic (and, if we’re being honest here, present-day British colonialism), some have suggested adding a dash of color into the mix, with imposing man of action Idris Elba, best known for his turn as the similarly traditionally-White Heimdall in the Thor movies, taking up the helm. Others, however, have suggested that it’s time for a woman to take up the role of 007, given the character’s checkered history with women, with Charlize Theron, aka Mad Max: Fury Road’s (2015) titular Furiosa, coming in as the general favorite from that line of inquiry. Some have even suggested that an American, like Matthew McConaughey, could take over, although that seemed to cross a clear line in the sand for most weighing in on the subject: Bond, it is generally agreed, should only ever be British, although everything else seems to be on the table.
Well, at long last, we have our answer for who the new British superspy is going to be, and I don’t think that anybody – even the most progressive commentators – saw this one coming. To be introduced in the yet-unnamed Bond 25, and fully coming into the role by its yet-unannounced sequel, is Lashana Lynch: a thirty-two-year-old Black British actress that very few people would have seen in much of anything at this point. Mostly known for appearing in TV series like Still Star-Crossed and Bulletproof, most international audiences will recognize her from her role as Carol Danvers’ best friend Maria Rambeau in this year’s Captain Marvel (2019).
That the power that be arrived at this conclusion for a Daniel Craig follow-up is almost downright comical: seemingly splitting the difference between calls for Elba and Theron, while simultaneously keeping in-line with the widespread criticism pertaining to McConaughey’s potential inclusion. That she would be chosen in light of recent comments by Bond filmmakers opining that no, Bond didn’t need to treat women any better than he has been (he really, really does, though), is especially surprising. Already, calls have come out accusing the studio of embedding some kind of political agenda in the franchise’s future, or of stunt-casting a woman of color in the role just to get extra publicity for the upcoming movie (although, given the contentiousness of non-white casting in recent weeks and the troubled production of the upcoming film thus far, whether any such press it’s jockeying for will be positive or negative is anybody’s guess at this point).
When it comes down to it, though, I honestly feel like this is the right choice to make. Bond has been a relic of a sad chapter in global history for decades at this point, and not even the good Daniel Craig movies have been able to make up for that fact. The character is tired and well-worn and decidedly past his prime at this point, and the entire franchise needed radical shakeup not just to be good again, but to be relevant for an increasingly global, increasingly non white male-centered 21st century. And whether that meant that Bond needed to be a woman or a person of color or an individual along the LGBT spectrum, that was always going to be the right decision. Furthermore, Bond has always worked best when acted out by a relatively unknown quantity, so casting a major star like the aforementioned “Big Three” would have been a mistake on the face of it regardless of how immensely talented any of them can claim to be.
Although I can hardly say that I’ve seen her in anything other than Captain Marvel at this point, it is obvious that Ms. Lynch is an incredibly talented actress well-suited to a major action franchise like this one. She is an exciting example of color-blind casting that opens up compelling new angles of storytelling that would simply be closed off to another straight-jawed white guy in the role. I am beyond exciting to see how she will acquit herself in the part and genuinely excited for James Bond in a way that I haven’t been for years.