The American Society of Magical Negroes – Casting Choices Explained

The satirical comedy, “The American Society of Magical Negroes,” tackles the complex reality of the Black experience in America, with a touch of magical realism. Ahead of the film’s release on March 15, 2024, we had the opportunity to participate in a roundtable interview with the film’s cast and crew.  hosted by the African American Film Critics Association on YouTube.

The Movie Blog: The film already had a huge challenge of talking about the black experience in America adjacent to whiteness. You chose to make, Aren, the lead character biracial, which seemed in contrast to the majority of the other magical Negroes. Can you share your thought process behind the decision in the context of portraying the black experience in America?

Kobi Libii: In terms of what the film is about, one way to think about what the film is about is the false promise of assimilation. So there is a suggestion in certain corners of America that if we just assimilate harder as black people or non-black people of color, that if we just, comply with the officer’s orders, as it were, we’re going to be safe. I think that’s a really dangerous lie. And, part of the satire is underscoring that… palatability will not save you. Right. And to sharpen the critique of that… taking the most palatable people of color…that that people of color like this will never have access to the full privileges of whiteness, despite their, literal proximity to whiteness.

The American Society of Magical Negroes Justice Smith David Alan Grier Review

That casting choice was incredibly deliberate to highlight the falseness of that promise of assimilation. As a black filmmaker, we’re always thinking about colorism. We’re always thinking about the representation of us. I speak for both Justice [Smith] and I, that we’re incredibly aware of the opportunity cost of presenting bodies that look like ours, as opposed to darker-skinned bodies. There’s there’s a [tricky] politics to that…I believe those politics are really positive for the black community because attacking that lie about assimilation is terrifically important work for all black people and also non-black people of color. I think attacking that rhetoric and attacking that ideology is really important. And to me, this [casting] sharpened that critique.

About The American Society of Magical Negroes:

Written, directed and produced by Kobi Libii (Koe-bee Luh-BEE) alongside producers Julia Lebedev, Eddie Vaisman and Angel Lopez, THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF MAGICAL NEGROES is a fresh, satirical comedy inspired by the “magical negro” cinematic trope popularized in American cinema and television throughout the 20th Century and first named and criticized by filmmaker Spike Lee. Flipping the trope on its head, THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF MAGICAL NEGROES follows a young man, Aren, who is recruited into a secret society of magical Black people who dedicate their lives to a cause of utmost importance: making white people more comfortable. Although initially enamored with his new powers, Aren begins to question the value of using supernatural means to do the very thing he’s felt obligated to do his whole life.

The American Society of Magical Negroes Justice Smith David Alan Grier Review (1)

Director: Kobi Libii
Writer(s): Kobi Libii
Stars: Justice Smith, David Alan Grier, An-Li Bogan, Drew Tarver, Michaela Watkins, Rupert Friend, Nicole Byer, Aisha Hinds, Tim Baltz
The American Society of Magical Negros comes to theaters on March 15, 2024. Be sure to follow E-Man’s Movie Reviews on Facebook, Subscribe on YouTube, or follow me on Twitter/IG @EmansReviews for even more movie news and reviews!

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About Emmanuel "E-Man" Noisette

Emmanuel is a Rotten Tomatoes Approved, Chicago film critic who founded Eman's Movie Reviews. He's contributed to other outlets such as ScreenRant andThe Wrap, and has been featured on television such as MSNBC. Be sure to join the other fans on his Facebook Fan Page for even more movie opinions and fun. Feel free to contact him with any professional inquiries: [email protected]