In anticipation of a looming production start date slated for January 2019, Cathy Yan‘s Birds of Prey is currently in the midst of testing several promising actresses for its roster. The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that Warner Bros. is sifting through an array of fantastic performers to find the perfect girl gang to accompany Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn in the DC Comics adaptation.
The Birds of Prey – which will consist of Harley, Black Canary, Huntress, Cassandra Cain, and Renee Montoya in the eponymous film – demands a diverse lineup from the get-go. Warner Bros. is evidently expanding its search to ensure inclusivity, even when we perhaps least expect it.
Most notably, non-white actresses have read for the role of Black Canary, one of the de facto leaders of the Birds of Prey. The character is known to be white in the comics and has been played by Katie Cassidy in DCTV’s Arrowverse. However, Birds of Prey is looking into the possibility of Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle) or Jurnee Smollett-Bell (WGN’s Underground) filling the role. THR further notes that Warner Bros. has shown interest in Janelle Monáe (Moonlight), although whether she actually tested for the part is uncertain.
The masked vigilante Huntress could be played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane), Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers), or Cristin Milioti (Black Mirror). Deadline adds Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) into the mix, but her inclusion has been contested by THR’s Borys Kit on Twitter. Meanwhile, Justina Machado (One Day at a Time) and Roberta Colindrez (I Love Dick) are apparently up for the role of Gotham City Police Department detective Renee Montoya.
The mute assassin Cassandra Cain is the sole piece of the puzzle left up in the air. She is reportedly being re-envisioned from her comic book counterpart into the guise of a 12-year-old girl. Asian actresses are being tested for the role. That said, no specific names have been attached at this time.
None of these actresses are confirmed for Birds of Prey, but simply acknowledging their imaginable connection to the material inspires more excitement for the movie as a whole. Throughout development, Birds of Prey has done an excellent job of keeping us on our toes, taking intriguing liberties with the core team lineup and drawing from disparate comics lore to incorporate Batman mainstay Black Mask as the group’s primary adversary.
These new casting whispers continue that pattern of creative freedom. Furthermore, each of these actresses has absolutely proven their mettle on screen. In all honesty, any of them would make a great case for their assigned roles.
Mostly known for her skilfully affecting dramatic portrayals in Belle, Black Mirror, and A Wrinkle in Time, there’s no way to keep the charismatic Mbatha-Raw from rising. She has marginally branched out into the realm of genre cinema, too, with roles in The Cloverfield Paradox and Jupiter Ascending. Finding her superhero breakout in Birds of Prey seems like an ideal next step for her ever-expanding profile.
Smollett-Bell can count successes on the big and small screens, although more consistently in the latter. Features such as Eve’s Bayou and The Great Debaters are certainly of note. However, she took up regular roles in sitcoms as a child actor (On Our Own) before moving on to the likes of Friday Night Lights and Underground, which continued to let her hone her skills as a formidable dramatic actress. Birds of Prey could align wonderfully with the high-quality work on her resume and boost her feature presence considerably.
Monáe practically had a fairytale start in Hollywood, but all the praise she garners is much-deserved. She displays ethereal warmth and tenacity in two game-changing movies: Moonlight and Hidden Figures. She dabbles in the sci-fi themes that have permeated her music for years by appearing in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams and releasing a 46-minute narrative piece to accompany her third studio album, Dirty Computer (one of the best films of the summer). We ought to welcome this unstoppable force in the blockbuster arena.
Winstead is probably my favorite Huntress hopeful at the moment, and that’s all thanks to her existing onscreen career. Between an early start in the superhero genre in Sky High to horror movies like the prequel/remake of The Thing, the indie drama Smashed and excellent franchise installments such as 10 Cloverfield Lane, Winstead performs exceptionally in practically every genre. She has produced a suitably wide breadth of work to encourage an implicit level of trust in her ability to impeccably translate a darker superhero like Huntress to the screen.
Qualley has a comparably smaller filmography but has done noteworthy work in spite of it. She is most well-known for playing the daughter of Justin Theroux’s protagonist in The Leftovers. Her feature films can also be celebrated, particularly Shane Black’s acerbic action comedy The Nice Guys. Qualley appears in the Death Note remake as well, which might not be a movie that inspires praise as a whole. However, she works with what she’s given with absolute gusto.
Grammy-winning Broadway actress Milioti has a budding onscreen career. She does her most high-profile work in Black Mirror‘s “USS Callister,” taking the episode to new heights by balancing out its indulgence and critique of its sci-fi premise. It’s easy for us to root for her in this particular Black Mirror chapter. Her other notable portrayals include Jordan Belfort’s first wife in The Wolf of Wall Street and the Mother in How I Met Your Mother; these are frustratingly thankless roles, though. Huntress definitely offers a different and thrilling opportunity.
However tenuously Boutella is attached to Birds of Prey at this point, there’s no doubt that she would have no trouble mastering the physicality of a superhero. She had her cinematic breakthrough moment as the agile antagonist Gazelle in the first Kingsman movie. Eventually, Boutella has managed to move on to showcase a keen ability for dramatic nuance, even in blockbusters like Star Trek Beyond and The Mummy. We could rely on her to get the job done well in another action-heavy role.
Both hopefuls for Renee Montoya round out this shortlist fantastically. Machado is currently owning the small screen in Netflix’s One Day at a Time. The comedy-drama is a decidedly heartwarming TV turn that starkly compares to the bleakness of an earlier success of hers — HBO’s Six Feet Under — but that surely only reinforces her talent. In between, Machado’s filmography is peppered with memorable offerings, including Final Destination 2, The Purge: Anarchy, and Jane the Virgin.
Finally, Colindrez is a theater actress whose biggest credits comprise the musical Fun Home (the first Broadway musical to feature a lesbian protagonist) and a modernized version of Hamlet (wherein she plays a genderbent Rosencrantz). On screen, she has made the most salient impression in the Amazon series I Love Dick. Colindrez is outstandingly fun in the show, bringing a healthy dose of lively optimism to the proceedings.
Now do you see how easy it is to get attached to any or, indeed, all of these casting options? Birds of Prey could be a worthy vehicle pushes these women into the spotlight a little more. Official casting decisions for the film are expected to be made in the coming weeks. Judging by this list of contenders alone, WB keeps on the right track for a killer movie.