When you think about who should play Carole King in a biopic, who do you picture? Maybe Alana Haim, one-third of the Haim sisters who in 2021 made her leading lady debut with “Licorice Pizza.” Or maybe it’s Julie Benko, the Fanny Brice understudy for the much-beleaguered production of “Funny Girl,” who’s weathered the Lea Michele/Beanie Feldstein storm with her head held high. Maybe you even pictured Lea Michele or Beanie Feldstein stepping in as Carole — or Jessie Mueller or Melissa Benoist, both of whom, while not Jewish, portrayed Carole in the “Beautiful” musical the biopic is being adapted from.
Whoever it was, it probably wasn’t Daisy Edgar-Jones, fresh off the success of “Normal People” and “Where the Crawdads Sing” (an adaptation of a problematic novel that warrants another blog post entirely) and potentially one-quarter of the hottest polycule to hit Silver Lake. And yet, one month ago, that’s exactly who the trades announced was hand-picked for the role of Carole — much to the chagrin of Jewish women everywhere — or at the very least, Jewish women on Twitter.
Edgar-Jones’s casting comes at a time when the conversation around non-Jewish women playing Jewish characters onscreen has reached a fever pitch. And while I do believe this is a nuanced, complicated conversation, I have some guesses as to why the casting of Edgar-Jones as Carole King feels particularly egregious.
For starters, it’s hard to imagine exactly why Edgar-Jones was cast, beyond the fact that for whatever reason, market forces (aka studio execs) have decided that Edgar-Jones is our It Girl of the moment. Secondly, Carole King is undeniably Semitic looking, with wild curly hair and something larger than a button nose. Edgar-Jones represents the Anglican beauty style that Jewish women (King included) have spent endless years being told is the ideal beauty standard that we should strive to conform to. I know I have been singed by my flatiron enough times to prove it.
Unfortunately, I don’t think producer Tom Hanks is going to pull Edgar-Jones from the movie just because a bunch of us are annoyed on Twitter. But there is still one thing that the studio can do to make amends to injured parties.
Let me teach Daisy Edgar-Jones how to be Jewish.
Hear me out here: There are some very particular affectations of being a culturally Jewish native New Yorker that I simply don’t think that Edgar-Jones is going to pick up on her own. Can you imagine British-born Daisy Edgar-Jones convincingly talking about her time at Queens College, Carole’s alma mater? Does Edgar-Jones even understand enough about New York City to comprehend the CUNY system? Does she know what a knish is, and if so, the proper way to eat one? (With the mustard in the middle, obviously.)
Edgar-Jones needs someone to guide her in all things Jewish both spiritual and material, a Semitic Sherpa to lead her to the top of the summit (or at the very least, the Upper West Side). It’s common practice for studios to hire character consultants, and let’s be honest, Edgar-Jones is going to need one. Yes, Edgar-Jones is an actress and becoming other people is her whole deal, but she grew up in one of London’s poshest neighborhoods, about as culturally far away from mid-century Flatbush as it gets. She’s setting out to depict a Jewish woman from an old school world that doesn’t quite exist anymore, to which she has no cultural or personal ties.
Carole King has too much on her plate to take Daisy over to Russ & Daughters or one of the city’s other many fine appetizing stores for a nosh. The woman has done enough for us already.
I, on the other hand, am a born-and-raised Queens native with nothing going on. My parents and grandparents hail from Brooklyn, which means I have all the cultural context and necessary lived experience to pass on to Daisy. Bearing witness to the application of even one (1) of my curl routines would pay dividends towards Daisy’s understanding of Carole’s curl pattern. All I ask in return is that she introduce me to Paul Mescal. Barring that, I’ll take my name in the credits.
The studio has nothing to lose here, and everything to gain. Imagine the rave reviews the movie will garner if Edgar-Jones can even just correctly pronounce “chutzpah.” To quote Angelica Pickles, “You have to chuh when you say it.” Consider that lesson one for Daisy and I. The second lesson is dropping her off in Flatbush and seeing if she can find her way to the Brill Building (where Carole famously recorded many of her number one hit singles, along with ex-husband Gerry Goffin).
Eventually, I see us covering the big ones: Generational Trauma and Jewish Guilt. Ironically, it is when Daisy finally has a strong understanding of Judaism — and by extension — Jewish Guilt, that she’ll realize that really, the role would be better suited for someone else. But at the very least, it’ll free up her calendar to jet off to Ibiza with the rest of the polycule. And if she’s so inclined to bring me with her to meet Paul, Phoebe, and the rest of the gang…well, I’m not complaining.