Lashana Lynch Photo/Victoria Will
For years, dark-skinned Black women have often been limited to stereotypical roles in tv and film. However, 33-year-old Lashana Lynch's career-defining role in the Bond Franchise signals a slow sign of progress. The British-born Jamaican stars as Naomi in the spy film, No Time to Die, released in the U.S. on October 8, 2021.
“To be in the Bond franchise means that I am making shifts that should have been shifted a long time ago,” she said in an Essence Magazine interview.
The New 007: Smashing Stereotypes
Lynch made the short list of actors vying for the iconic role after a rigorous audition. She read with Daniel Craig, who was set to make his final appearance as James Bond and crushed all five stunt tests. And as you already know – the rest is history. Lashana Lynch became the first black female to play the MI6 secret agent 007 in the Bond franchise.
At first, Lynch was uncertain about the opportunity. As a woman who believes in being true to herself and the characters that she plays, she wanted to make sure that Black audiences would relate to her portrayal of Naomi. After reviewing the script and speaking with producer Barbara Broccoli and director Cary Joji Fukunaga, she knew that they were aligned.
When the news leaked that Lashana Lynch had landed the coveted 007 role, Internet trolls and toxic Bond fans set social media ablaze with an onslaught of racist and misogynistic comments. They criticized the casting of a Black woman in this role. Some critics felt that the 007 character was best suited to be portrayed by the status quo - a white male. Others were open to the franchise’s inclusion and representation efforts but would have preferred a Black male actor instead.
In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Lynch talked about the backlash she received and shared, "I am one Black woman – if it were another Black woman cast in the role, it would have been the same conversation, she would have got the same attacks, the same abuse. I just have to remind myself that the conversation is happening and that I’m a part of something that will be very, very revolutionary."
Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Universal Pictures
Despite the negative reactions to the casting news, Lynch did her thing and brought it – giving audiences the fierceness they expected from her character. Lynch plays Naomi, a British agent who rose through the ranks of MI6. Alongside Daniel Craig, she helps search for a scientist who was kidnapped from a high-security bioweapon facility.
Her Rise to Fame: Shondaland and Captain Marvel
Lynch – who was born in London, was raised by her Jamaican grandmother, who immigrated to the U.K. Since her childhood, she loved to act and sing. Lynch’s interest in the performing arts led her to attend London's Arts Educational Schools, including the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School.
After graduating in 2010, Lashana Lynch pursued her passion for acting. She made her film debut in 2012, playing an Olympic athlete in Fast Girls. Over the next few years, the burgeoning actress appeared in films and TV shows, including The Powder Room, Crims, and Brotherhood. In 2016, Lynch landed her big break in the Shonda Rhimes produced period drama Still Star-Crossed, where she played the lead role of Rosaline – the cousin of Juliet.
“It’s so hard to get in the room. When you get that role here, it’s like you’re flying. You’re doing it, you’re doing it for us. If one person wins, then we all win,” Lynch told Essence Magazine about the camaraderie among Black actors from the UK.
She went on to star as the resilient single mother and badass superhero Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel. Her witty and unforgettable performance left comic book fans buzzing with excitement. The breakout star's role in the Shondaland series and Marvel Comic flick set her up for No Time To Die – a role in which her Jamaican heritage radiated.
Inspiring Caribbean Youth and Black Girls
Although she may not have set out to be one, Lashana Lynch is a true role model for Caribbean youth and young Black women alike. Seeing themselves represented in a major film, in a strong and positive light, is encouraging. It reminds us of the power that we have. It also crystallizes that we belong here, in these spaces.
Lynch casting as 007 opened a dialogue that should be continued. We must keep the conversation going. While some progress has been made in the film industry, there is still a lot more that can and must be done to make “positive” storylines for Black female leads in Hollywood sustainable.
As for Lashana Lynch, this Jamaican gyal, Caribbean woman, history maker, is no doubt, unstoppable. It's no question that she will continue to shine through her extreme talent and gifted performances.