Soul was released on December 25, introducing the world to Pixar’s first Black protagonist: jazz pianist Joe Gardner. The character inhabits a vividly realized African American milieu in New York City, and the film has the cast to match: several prominent Black actors and musicians lent their voices, led by Jamie Foxx as Joe.
Closing out a year in which the role of race in voice casting came under scrutiny, Soul struck a blow for diversity — with a caveat. In European-language dubs of the film, Joe and other Black characters are in some cases voiced by white actors. In Denmark and Portugal, this color-blind casting has prompted a backlash.
The New York Times reports that a controversy broke out in Denmark when people realized that Joe is dubbed by white actor Nikolaj Lie Kaas. The outcry was such that Lie Kaas issued a statement on Facebook defending his casting. “My position with regards to any job is very simple,” he wrote. “Let the man or woman who can perform the work in the best possible way get the job.”