“Whitewashing” is a term we hear used a lot these days, specifically pertaining to the casting of white actors in superhero films in place of actors with racial backgrounds that match the source material. One such casting was Tilda Swinton in Marvel’s newest feature film, Doctor Strange. Swinton’s casting as the Ancient One was met with significant controversy as the Ancient One from the comics is actually a male of Asian descent.
Marvel’s television universe almost went the other direction with a “reverse whitewash” when it was making casting decisions for its next Netflix series, Iron Fist. Danny Rand, originally a Caucasian male with blonde hair and blue eyes, was almost cast as an Asian male. Asian-American actor Lewis Tan, who ultimately ended up in the role of Zhou Cheng, was at one point heavily considered for the role of Danny.
Although Cheng does not hold any grudges against the Iron Fist decision, considering Danny has always been a Caucasian male, he was not as content with the decision to whitewash the Ancient One. In a recent piece from Variety, Tan was asked about his thoughts on the casting of Swinton, to which he replied:
“I originally auditioned for the [‘Iron Fist’] lead and was highly considered for it, but they went a different way. In the original comic, he was a Caucasian guy with blue eyes, blonde hair. I think Finn Jones fits that character very well, so I have no issues with that. […]
I’m not the biggest fan of [the Tilda Swinton] casting choice. I can see why they wanted to switch it up. Producers, studios, directors, writers — there’s a lot of voices. I think that an Asian woman would’ve been fantastic cast in that. They said she would be too much of a ‘Dragon Lady’ or too stereotypical, but I disagree.”
Tan has a sensible opinion on the matter, offering up justified reasoning from both sides while ultimately landing on disapproval. Race swapping in comic book movies is not new, will probably not end anytime soon as a means to be more inclusive to all audiences, and will never be an easy topic to discuss.
Do you feel agree with Lewis Tan about Swinton’s casting in Doctor Strange, or do you support Marvel’s decision? Make sure to let us know below in the comments.