Though the dystopian YA film genre has died down a bit in recent years, that hasn’t stopped studios from attempting to capitalize on the success of franchises like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner. Fox announced earlier this year that they would take a chance on The Darkest Minds, the first in a series of novels by Alexandra Bracken that focus on kids and teens with special abilities that must fight to escape the corrupt government that has imprisoned them following a devastating pandemic.
The entire Darkest Minds series is comprised of three novels and three novellas, and follows telepathic teenager Ruby Daly as she seeks a safe haven following her escape from Thurmond, a government “rehabilitation camp.” It has been previously reported that Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 3) will direct a script by Chad Hodge (Wayward Pines), but had yet to hear about who producers were looking to cast as lead Ruby. As it turns out, Sleepy Hollow actress Amandla Stenberg has been cast as the film’s complex protagonist.
The 17-year-old actor made her debut in Colombiana, where she played a younger incarnation of Zoe Saldana, before drawing mainstream attention with her portrayal of Rue in The Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen befriend Rue in the first Hunger Games book and film, and is devastated by the child’s death at the hands of Capitol contestants. Stenberg’s death scene in the first film struck emotional chords in audiences everywhere, and she has since gone on to make appearances in all kinds of media, from critically acclaimed indie flick As You Are to Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Stenberg, who is active across social media, is also an outspoken activist, referring to herself as an intersectional feminist and openly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
Despite critical praise for her performance as Rue, Stenberg also received widespread vitriol from those against a black actor portraying the character. Hopefully the young actor will not have to relive that experience four years later following this news, since recent Hollywood hits Spider-Man: Homecoming and A Wrinkle in Time have also cast young mixed-race black women in lead roles. Since Ruby’s skin color is not specified in the Darkest Minds books, Stenberg’s casting makes plenty of sense, and it’s cool to see a young actor with much critical acclaim get a shot at the mainstream big-time. Hopefully, this is just the start of an illustrious career for the multi-talented actor, who will undoubtedly bring her signature nuance and dramatic flair to the rich role.
The Darkest Minds is still in the early stages of production, and therefore a release date is TBA.