The trailer for 'Cats' has people asking why you can't tell the film's lead, Francesca Hayward, is black

Tanya Edwards

The first trailer for the feature film version of beloved Broadway musical Cats dropped on Thursday, boasting a cast that includes Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, James Corden and, in the lead role, newcomer Francesca Hayward.

Francesa Hayward (Photo: Instagram)
Francesa Hayward (Photo: Instagram)

Hayward – named principal dancer in 2016 to the British Royal Ballet – plays Victoria, the shy white kitten, in director Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical. Born near Nairobi to a Kenyan mother and British father, Hayward moved to England at the age of 2.

Twitter has already piled on the trailer, calling the CGI enhanced versions of the stars “nightmare fuel,” but some users thought that Hayward’s face had been altered and her coloring changed not just to look like a cat, but in order to obscure that she is black.

Another user pointed out that the lead is called “white cat” and in the musical the cat is literally white, writing, “in the musical it is the one cat that is white and it would change the script and premise for the white cat to not be white?”

But, as another points out, the movie makeup covers Hayward’s skin in a way that the others doesn’t, writing, “They could easily leave her human face black and have the cat fur white and she would still be recognisable as a white cat. They didn't have to bleach her face.”

“They really have changed the structure of her face,” wrote another, “The nose looks the same, and the eyes are close, but the jawline and cheekbones”

Many didn’t realize Hayward was a person of color at all based on the trailer, and stated as such in a pretty straightforward fashion.

And some people felt this was part of a bigger issue, with one writing, “There’s a weird trend of obscuring actors of color behind prosthetics and cgi that hide their skin.”

For her part, Hayward seems to be thrilled with her role and the trailer, sharing it on her Instagram with the caption “A very feline Christmas awaits...”

Cats opens in theaters on Dec. 20.

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