As production on Wonder Woman 1984 winds down and cameras roll on Joker, Warner Bros. is gearing up to square away its next DC Comics adaptation to go before cameras. Next in line is Birds of Prey, a female-centric team-up movie anchored by Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, with Cathy Yan set to direct. Filming is aiming to begin at the beginning of 2019, and to that end Warner Bros. has begun testing actresses for key roles in the movie.
Per THR, Gugu Mbatha-Raw (The Cloverfield Paradox) and Jurnee Smolett-Bell (Friday Night Lights) are in the mix for the role of Black Canary, with Janelle Monae also said to be in the running—although it’s unclear if she’s actually tested. The character of Black Canary has traditionally been white in the comics, but Warner Bros. is looking to fill out the ensemble of Birds of Prey with diverse talent. Regardless of race, Mbatha-Raw and Smolett-Bell are two incredibly talented actresses and Monae showed tremendous promise in Moonlight, so any one of these performers would be a swell choice. Mbatha-Raw has held her own as the lead in films like Belle and the Black Mirror episode “San Junipero”, while Smolett-Bell recently lead the WGN series Underground and stars in the Jordan Peele-produced upcoming HBO series Lovecraft Country.
For the role of Huntress, THR says The Leftovers standout Margaret Qualley, actress Cristin Milioti (who led Black Mirror’s “USS Callister”), and the wildly talented Mary Elizabeth Winstead have tested or read. And for the character of Renee Montoya, a lesbian detective on the Gotham City police force, One Day at a Time star Justina Machado and Vida and The Deuce actress Roberta Colindrez have tested.
WB is also looking to fill the role of Cassandra Cain, but with a twist. While the comics iteration is a mute assassin who was at one time Batgirl, Birds of Prey’s version of the character will be 12 years old and they’re looking for an Asian actress for the part.
There are other actors are in the mix for the roles, and as is always true with “testing” or “shortlist” stories, it’s always possible someone else entirely comes away with the part (see: Josh Brolin as Cable). But this is a mighty exciting assemblage of talent, and it’s clear WB is seriously putting together a diverse ensemble. It also must be said that any one of these roles has the potential to either go on and show up in another DCEU film or even lead their own movie, so this is a major coup for anyone involved.
Stay tuned, as WB is expected to make final decisions in the coming weeks.