‘The Dark Tower’ may have found its female lead, but there might be a problem

Deputy Entertainment Editor
02.18.16

Warner Bros.

Stephen King”s series The Dark Tower has been in development since the dawn of time. Not really, but sometimes it feels that. Folks have tried to get the Man in Black to flee across the desert and the Gunslinger to follow since at least 2007 with J.J. Abrams attached to direct. The latest incarnation is currently slated for 2017, directed by Nikolaj Arcel. Things are looking up as casting rumors are starting to pop up like mushrooms after a development purgatory rainstorm.

But there”s something weird about this latest rumor. Why on Earth would the “female lead” be white?

Deadline got the scoop that Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road) is currently in talks to play opposite of Idris Ebla”s Roland(!) in The Dark Tower. The only problem? The female lead in Stephen King”s novels is Susannah Dean, a disabled, schizophrenic black woman from 1964. I”ve talked ad nauseam about why it”s okay to convert fictional white characters into minorities but not the other way around. Susannah growing up during the Civil Rights Movement – plus being a black woman with both physical and mental disabilities – are crucial parts of her character. It informs who she is as a person. There is no way to turn Susannah white without obliterating what makes the character into Susannah.

But there is another option. The Deadline report states Lee is in talks to play “Tirana.” That name may be familiar to book readers as a MINOR character from the last novel. Definitely not someone who would be the lead. So why that name? Perhaps because “Susan” sounds suspiciously like “Susannah” and if there”s anything Hollywood hates, it”s characters with similar sounding names. Case in point? Game of Thrones Asha became Yara for the HBO show because her original name was too close to Osha.

If The Dark Tower plays out in chronological order, the film may begin not with a desert chase but with Roland in happier times, with his wife Susan. It is a traditional – if tired – trope to inflict pain on a woman to kickstart a man”s journey. Susan is even described as having blonde hair…which Lee has in spades.

Honestly? This information is kind of strange. Having Abbey Lee as the “female lead” in a series where the main female character is black feels contradictory. It”s certainly possible Deadline”s source doesn”t have the whole story or was misinformed about who constitutes the lead in The Dark Tower.

So is Lee being tapped to play a name-changed Susan? We”ll find out soon enough. All I can say is…she better be.

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