While Lewis Tan nabbed one of the primary Big Bad roles in Marvel’s upcoming Netflix series Iron Fist, io9 is reporting Twitter and interview comments Tan has made suggesting that while he gave the role his all, there was a role he wanted more.
I would have loved to of (sic) played Danny but I gave Marvel everything I have for Zhou. I can’t wait for you guys to see the show.
Danny Rand is played by actor Finn Jones in the series while Tan plays Zhou Cheng, a minion of Ch’i-Lin. Tan, already a martial artist who has shown his moves online in the lead up to the series, feels that Asian actors aren’t getting the lead roles in films and television and more often relegated to roles as martial arts villains, sidekicks, or IT nerds.
io9 also reported that in an interview in His Style Diary Tan says he believes studios in general simply aren’t “comfortable” with Asians playing lead roles. Roles, the actor notes, “…I want.”
Marvel Studios faced some backlash when casting Danny Rand, a martial artist, and not changing his ethnicity from white, as he was in the comics, to Asian. The argument being that what was acceptable in popular culture in 1974 when the character was introduced may not necessarily be the way things are done in 2016. Marvel faced similar accusations of whitewashing the character of the Ancient One, changing the character from an Asian man in the comics to a white woman played by Tilda Swinton in the upcoming film Doctor Strange.
Given the studio’s supposed drive for diversity, most recently demonstrated with the Netflix series Luke Cage, it is surprising that some of these decisions were being made. However, since we don’t know the plot or character of Danny Rand in Iron Fist we’re not sure if his ethnicity plays a role, if it does, perhaps keeping him as a white character fits better. It would likely be better to wait to determine if that was the reason rather than encourage changing it just to change it.
Tan does say this in a follow up comment on Twitter:
There’s a lot of work to be done to see more ethnic actors as the heroes in major Films/TV but the wall is coming down. We all have a voice
— Lewis Tan (@TheLewisTan)
And he’s right on all counts.
What do you think about this issue? Keeping the lead faithful to the comics? Or should more have been done to address the character’s racial status in an effort to bring the series in line with current sensibilities? Sound off below!