Marvel and Netflix have a good thing going with a wave of quality series that have brought to life their street-level heroes. Whether due to a desire for more diversity, or simply a longing to explore uniquely challenging human experiences, Marvel made some interesting picks for their first three heroes — a blind man (Daredevil), a sexually and emotionally abused woman (Jessica Jones), and a wrongfully incarcerated black man (Luke Cage). Next on the docket is Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist, who almost seems like the odd man out as a rich, white man.
Danny’s superhero origin involves him traveling to the secluded Chinese city of K’un-Lun, where he trains under martial arts masters and attains the chi-based abilities of their most powerful warrior, the Iron Fist. Some fans have argued that a series starring a white man appropriating an Asian skillset for his own empowerment is a dated concept. In the lead-up to the casting of the series, many suggested that perhaps Danny could be played by an Asian-American, giving the show a potential theme of returning to one’s roots instead.
Actor and stuntman Lewis Tan hoped Marvel would agree with this sentiment, and auditioned for the starring role in Iron Fist. Though Marvel was reportedly considering Asian actors for the role, they ended up picking Finn Jones (Game of Thrones) as their star. Tan landed a major role as the villainous Zhou Cheng, whose job in the comics is to kill every master who holds the power of the Iron Fist.
If a recent tweet from Tan’s account is any indication, it looks like Finn Jones is going to have his work cut out keeping up with his rival.
In an interview earlier this year with His Style Diary, Tan discussed the sometimes-frustrating position of trying to break into acting as an Asian-American.
“You have to know martial arts, you have to be super smart. I don’t see male leading roles for Asians. The thing is, I want to be the lead, the hero, the love interest character. I don’t want to play the fifth best friend who is a nerd. I don’t want to play the ninja, whose face you never see. I know kung fu, I’ve been doing martial arts for 15 years, and I love it. But I think there are these expectations. These are the roles they are comfortable with Asians doing. They aren’t comfortable in seeing you in lead roles – the ones I want.”
Fortunately, despite being passed over for the hero role, Tan’s recent tweets suggest he’s still very proud of the series, and he sounds much more optimistic about the future opportunities for minority actors in the U.S.
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) October 8, 2016
It’s been said that acting is one of the few jobs that even the exceptionally talented and hard working could potentially never succeed in. Often it simply comes down to whether or not an individual “feels” correct to a given director, or seems bankable enough to a given producer. To a certain degree, this is the nature of the business, and will never change. But regardless of your stance on Danny Rand’s ethnicity, hopefully we can all agree that more roles for people from all walks of life can only make for more fascinating and authentic television.
Stay tuned to Screen Rant for updates on Iron Fist as they hit.
Daredevil season 1 & 2, Jessica Jones season 1, and Luke Cage season 1 are now available on Netflix. Iron Fist season 1 arrives on March 17th, 2017. The Defenders and The Punisher arrive in 2017. Release dates for Jessica Jones season 2 and Daredevil season 3 have not yet been announced.