Passing, Starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga, Could Be Heading to Netflix

After wowing at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, Rebecca Hall’s film, Passing, may be headed to Netflix. Deadline reported that the streaming platform is nearing a $15.75 million deal to acquire the feature, which stars Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson in the lead roles. As we await more details about its wide release, here’s what to know about Passing so far.

It’s based on the novella by Nella Larsen.

Adapted from Nella Larsen’s eponymous work, published in 1929, Passing follows two Black women who racially pass for white during the segregation era, in 1920s New York. In Hall’s black-and-white screen version, Negga plays Clare and Thompson plays Irene, former high school friends who run into each other in the city, finding that they each live different lives on “opposite sides of the color line,” per an official synopsis. Clare lives in Manhattan with her white husband who doesn’t know that she is Black; Irene lives in Harlem with her husband, who is a Black doctor, and their two kids. The two women’s chance encounter leads to an obsession, resulting in a deeper exploration of racial and gender identity, performance, colorism, and repression.

Rebecca Hall has a personal connection to the story.

At first, the British actress was publicly met with skepticism when plans for the film were announced, but Hall, who is white-passing herself, has biracial roots. Her mother is opera singer Maria Ewing, whose mother was Dutch and father was Black and also white-passing, according to the LA Times.

“I don’t have any experience of being a Black person in America,” Hall told The Hollywood Reporter of her relationship to the film. “I don’t know what that feels like because I present as white, I go through the world as white, you know. But what I do have an experience of is being raised by people who were also raised by people who made choices that were shaped by living in a racist society.”

A friend introduced Passing, the book, to Hall and she was “viscerally gut-punched” upon reading, she told the Times. She wrote the first draft of the script in 10 days.

André Holland and Alexander Skarsgård are also in the cast.

André Holland (High Flying Bird, Selma) plays Irene’s husband, Brian, and Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood, Big Little Lies) is Clare’s husband, John. And there are more big names behind the scenes: Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes created the classical-inspired score. Forest Whitaker is one of the producers, as is Nina Yang Bongiovi, who worked on Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, Chloé Zhao’s Songs My Brothers Taught Me, Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, and more.

Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga were drawn to the script.

According to THR, Hall first approached Negga about the film in 2017. The Loving star remembered saying, “Sign me up immediately.” Executive producer Angela Robinson then passed the script over to Thompson. “I was so struck by how faithful it was to the book and also how it made me understand the source material in new and deeper ways,” she told the outlet. Thompson talked with Hall to learn more about her intention for the film, “and it made me want to work on it all the more.”

Both lead actresses are also biracial. Negga said of relating to her character, “Being a mixed-race person, I think that it naturally informed Clare. Feelings of perhaps alienation, of being different, about trying to find your place.”

Stay tuned for more updates.

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