Actress Zazie Beetz is finally speaking out about her controversial role as the iconic Stagecoach Mary in Netflix’s widely acclaimed western The Harder They Fall.

The Harder They Fall photos

Source: Netflix / Netflix


In the film, the 34-year-old star portrays Mary Fields also known as Stagecoach Mary, who was the first Black woman to work as a star-route mail carrier in the 1890s. Some social media critics weren’t too happy that Beetz was tapped to play the famous Wild West legend, citing that the casting choice was colorist because Beetz is of a lighter complexion. Old photographs that have surfaced of Mary show that she was actually of a darker hue.

During an interview with The Times UK, Beetz said she thought about their differences in skin color even before she decided to take the role.

“I understand the privilege that I have as a light-skinned woman and it’s always on my mind. I have, multiple times, turned down roles because I felt I wasn’t the correct choice for the character,” she continued. “At the time when I read this script, almost all the other cast members had already signed on. I could see that the characters were largely based on fiction and not truly on their historical counterparts, and that none of the characters actually bore much physical likeness to the actors that played them … I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to explore an iconic genre, the spaghetti western, and make it something new.”


Beetz, who is of half African American and half German descent, said that she has also “struggled” identifying with both sides of her mixed-race heritage. The Primetime Emmy nominee recalled a memory of when she was confronted with an identity crisis at the age of 11 or 12.

“I was a part of this leadership programme for young black girls. We were all in the cafeteria when some song came on, and all the girls started dancing. I was like, what is this? What is this dance? What is the song? It’s a superficial example, but I remember having a really visceral reaction and thinking, ‘Am I not black enough?’” she explained.



The Harder They Fall is inspired by real-life Black historical figures including Nat Lov (played by Jonathan Majors), who became one of the most notorious cowboys to dominate the Old West in the 1850s. Despite the backlash, Beetz said she was happy to be a part of the film and to educate viewers about Black people’s presence during that time period.

“There were a lot of black people in the West, and it was not a rare thing or an anomaly,” Beetz added to The Times UK.


See the full story on Zazie here.

Have you seen The Harder They Fall? What do you think of the film? Sound off in the comments and listen to Zazie Beetz share more about her role as Stagecoach Mary below.




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