In Hollywood, there have been a lot of conversations lately about the practice of whitewashing. Comic book movies and television shows frequently find themselves in the middle of the debate. While accusations of whitewashing are prevalent in the genre, such as the casting of Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange, fans can also be upset when a traditionally white character is played by a non-white actor — such as Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm in The Fantastic Four — because of the changes from the original source material. One recent property that has been accused of whitewashing is the Netflix series Iron Fist.
Iron Fist is somewhat unique in the debate. Danny Rand is caucasian in the comics and is played by a caucasian actor — Finn Jones. However, the story is steeped in Asian culture and history, leading many to desire an Asian actor in the lead role. The casting of Jones has certainly angered some people, but the show is not without Asian actors. Rand’s friend and ally Colleen Wing is played by Jessica Henwick.
According to an interview she recently had with EW, Henwick was very aware of the controversy surrounding Iron Fist, and it gave her second thoughts about taking on the role:
“It was a hard decision to make to join the show. Not because of the material or anything. But I’m part of the Asian community. I’m Asian. I’m an actor. If anyone understands the conversation, it’s me. I’ve lived and breathed it.”
In the end, Henwick did choose to play the part, because the character of Colleen spoke to her, and she found potential value in playing her:
“When I came on to Iron Fist, it was really Colleen Wing that sold it for me. I thought it was a good opportunity to see a really strong female Asian American… She’s not a superhero; she’s just an ordinary person who has the guts to fight people with superpowers. Which I think is amazing!”
While Iron Fist did not end up having an Asian superhero, Henwick is confident that it will not be long before an Asian hero gets the spotlight:
“I would love to see an Asian American superhero. And I think it’s going to happen. There’s something about fantasy and sci-fi that seems more welcoming of different ethnicities. It means that I’ve been presented with a lot of really cool opportunities.”
Iron Fist is currently available on Netflix. Danny Rand and Colleen Wing will join up with the rest of the Marvel heroes on Netflix this September in The Defenders.