This week many African-Americans across the country celebrated the holiday of Juneteenth: the day when the last of the enslaved African-Americans were freed on June 19th, 1865 in Texas after the end of the American Civil War. This holiday has certainly gained more widespread notoriety around the country and, as such, I thought it only fitting to do a live-action fancast of one of the most riveting and compelling YA books to come out this year: Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation.
If you thought the zombie apocalypse genre was stale and played out, you haven’t read Dread Nation yet. Set in an alternate historical landscape of the Reconstruction Era, this book centers around Jane McKeene, who was born two days before the Battle of Gettysburg where the dead came back to life, changing America forever. Jane is studying to be an Attendant: one of the only viable career paths for Negro girls in this new world, where she will serve as a bodyguard of sorts for an aristocratic white woman. Jane believes this is a path she can take herself off, focusing instead on getting back home to the Kentucky plantation she grew up on. However, when the allegedly safe haven of Baltimore sees multiple families go missing, Jane becomes intertwined in a plot bigger than she ever could’ve imagined, one that will involve her fighting for her life.
So, without further ado, let’s proceed into the fancast! Of course, this fancast would be nothing without our amazing graphic designer, Britany Murphy, who provided the graphics for this.
First up is our main character Jane McKeene. Jane is a fiery, no-nonsense Southern girl from Kentucky who isn’t afraid to fight first and ask questions later. She bucks the standards for what is or isn’t modest feminine behavior. Even with her tough-as-nails attitude, Jane is still just as relatable as the rest of us in the way she views the world and the way she crushes on guys and girls alike. For this role, I would recommend Christina Jackson, known mainly for her work in the outstanding WGN drama Outsiders.
Next up is one of my favorite characters in the entire book: Katherine Devereaux. Positioned early on as a frenemy of sorts to our dear Jane, Katherine is a white-passing classmate of Jane’s who is also training to be an Attendant, though it is clear that, much like Jane, this isn’t the sort of life she envisions for herself either. She is characterized as being rather snooty and incredibly smart. For this role, I chose Ella Rae Smith from the AMC show Into the Badlands.
Next is one of my other favorite characters in the book: Jackson Keats a.k.a Red Jack. Previously a love interest for Jane, Red Jack is a cocky “redbone” as Jane calls him who is as slippery as a fox with the uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time. He is a fun character who I hope to see more of in the sequel to Dread Nation when the time comes. For this character, I chose Alfred Enoch of Harry Potter and How to Get Away with Murder.
Another possible love interest for Jane in this story is Gideon Carr, a white man that Jane finds herself inexplicably drawn to. Gideon is a scientist of sorts who has a rather nerdy countenance. He is friendly to Jane and helps her at various points throughout the story. One of his primary inventions in the story is a vaccination against the “shamblers”. For this role, I chose 911 and Into the Badlands star Oliver Stark.
The last two characters were relatively minor in the book in comparison to the others, but I felt like they would become more prominent in the sequel to Dread Nation. These characters are Mr. Redfern and Ida. Redfern is a Native American man who was forced to attend a school similar to Jane’s for Native American children who were forced to assimilate. Though he is part of the way Jane’s life changes in the book, he is later revealed to be not what he seems and I found myself thoroughly compelled by his character. For this, I chose Martin Sensmeier, an Alaskan Native actor known for his roles in The Magnificent Seven and HBO’s Westworld.
Ida is someone Jane meets around the middle of the book. She takes Jane under her wing, so to speak, and befriends her. While she isn’t featured as often as I would like to see, she becomes valuable to Jane and proves herself to be a fine fighter when the time calls for it. For this role, I chose Tanyell Waivers of Queen Sugar.
So what do you think about this fancast? Would you like to see Dread Nation turned into a live-action film? Let us know in your comments!