Jessye Romeo in Stan TV show Robyn Hood

Image supplied by Stan

Robin Hood Has Finally Been Reimagined As A Woman

Robyn Hood actor Jessye Romeo speaks of the importance of a Black woman portraying a character inspired by the legendary tale.

From Jodie Whittaker taking on the eponymous role of Doctor Who in 2018, to Sony’s Ghosbusters reboot in 2016 featuring an all-women lead cast, the entertainment industry is gradually acknowledging the power of female representation in telling stories that have been part of the cultural zeitgeist for years. 

The tale of Robin Hood is the latest example. Despite the story being adapted for film and television over 70 times, it’s not until now that Robin has been reimagined on the screen as a woman. English actor Jessye Romeo plays the lead Robyn Loxley in Canadian action drama series, Robyn Hood. You can’t help but wonder why it’s taken so long for the legendary story to centre a woman, and Romeo agrees.  

“I did think that actually,” Romeo tells Missing Perspectives, highlighting this show is even more significant given Robyn is a Black woman.

As the frontwoman of an anti-authoritarian masked hip-hop band called The Hood, Romeo’s character finds herself fighting for freedom against the capitalist forces that try to take her and her family’s home from them. The show unapologetically explores race, class, wealth, family dynamics and the importance of protesting for what’s right. All of the key themes from the original tale are present – simply reimagined to depict the battles fought by marginalised communities in present times. 

“I think it's just a classic tale and a classic story, and I think it is unfortunate that with some of the elements, we're still dealing with these things nowadays,” she says. “You really get to know the side of things of people who are oppressed.” 

Amongst the adversity, strong women like Robyn rise, showcasing “bravery and fearlessness” – attributes that Romeo greatly admires in her on-screen persona. 

“When I talk about Robyn as a character, it is that fearlessness and the fact that she has so much integrity and has that fire in her belly to step outside of a particular comfort zone to really push that fight – I think that's one of the takeaways for me from playing that character,” she says. “Just that level of bravery and fearlessness. I was like, ‘How can I bring that into my own life?’ because it is quite inspiring.” 

Jessye Romeo in Stan TV show Robyn Hood

Image supplied by Stan

Speaking of her real-life experiences, Romeo acknowledges that the entertainment industry has long struggled with cultural representation, and being a Black woman in Hollywood can be challenging. There’s the pressure of trying to secure roles in a fiercely competitive industry, combined with the expectations to represent your community in the public eye. The stakes can often be higher for Black women when they take on the lead role in a big TV show.

“I think you always have that voice in your head that says that your best still may not be good enough,” she reflects. “I think generationally, we've kind of been told that we have to be better all the time – with grades or whatever it is you might do. You got an A, but why didn’t you get an A star?” 

Romeo says she’s not only “proud” to represent her community and play this character, but be involved in a project that commits to authentic representation through attention to detail. 

“One of the most beautiful things for me was that when we were in the process of carving out the specifics of Robyn and her family background, we had talks about what my heritage is,” she explains. “We didn’t want to just generalise. They [the team] were really specific. 

“My grandparents came over to England in the 50s from a tiny island called Antigua with a population of probably under 100,000. I spent a lot of time there. It feels like home to me, and the set designers just had the most beautiful surprise for me, which was the Antigua flag that's on the back of Robyn’s bedroom door. I was really emotional.” 

It’s been over a decade since Romeo first began acting, and while she’s known for starring in TV series, Pennyworth and 2020 short film, Lucky Break, Robyn Hood is her highest-profile role to date. Acting has always been her calling, but landing her big break has been somewhat of an uphill battle.

“When I first got into the National Youth Theatre, I remember walking into this room and I really felt at home," she says of her start in the biz. "It was just one of those places where I just felt like I belonged and things clicked into place. But, of course, it’s a tough profession and you've just got to keep going,” she says. 

“You can see from IMDb that I'm probably in my 12th year, coming into my 13th year, of doing it professionally. What you don't see are all the different side hustles and all the struggles that go on, in between the jobs.” 

Similar to her character Robyn, Romeo’s determination and strength are undeniable in a world where the odds can be stacked against you. 

In watching this show, she now asks viewers to contemplate, “What side of history do you want to be on?” 

“It’s a good question to ruminate on and [ask yourself], 'Have you spoken up for causes that you believe in?' I think it's important to do that," she adds.

"I think it's important to fight for what is right. It’s also important to fight for the people that you love and have community and family, whether that is blood or otherwise.” 

The brand new series Robyn Hood is now streaming, new episode Thursdays, only on Stan.