Iron Fist season 1 is now available for streaming on Netflix, serving as the fourth addition to the service's library of Marvel Cinematic Universe-based TV shows after Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Jon Bernthal is also reprising his role as Frank Castle from Daredevil season 2 later this year, in the Netflix/Marvel spinoff series The Punisher. However, it's Iron Fist season 1 that serves as the final link in the chain leading up to this summer's Netflix team-up miniseries event The Defenders, wherein Danny Rand (Finn Jones) joins forces with his fellow New York-based MCU superheroes.
The general critical reception for Iron Fist has easily been the weakest for any of the Marvel/Netflix TV series to date, with some of that criticism pointed at the show's portrayal of Danny Rand and the respective casting of Jones in the role. Iron Fist costar Lewis Tan, who plays Zhou Cheng on the series, previously confirmed that he had auditioned for the role of Danny himself. More recently, the actor (who is half-Chinese) spoke in greater depth about why he was interested in playing Iron Fist and how his casting would have changed the series, on a fundamental storytelling level.
Speaking with Vulture, Tan recounted his audition process for the Iron Fist TV show and touched upon how, had he landed the role, the story of Danny Rand would have been a significantly different one:
“I read for Danny [Rand], and they liked me a lot. I read again and again and again, and it was a long process, and it got to the point where they were talking about my availability and my dates. That’s always a good sign, you know? And then they went with Finn and they had me read for a villain part [Tan was cast as one-off villain Zhou Cheng in episode 8 of the Netflix series] maybe two weeks later… I think they were highly considering [casting me in the lead role] at one point in time, but it would have definitely changed the dynamic of the show. It would have been a different show.
“I personally think it would have been a really interesting dynamic to see this Asian-American guy who’s not in touch with his Asian roots go and get in touch with them and discover this power. I think that’s super interesting and we’ve never seen that. We’ve seen this narrative already; we’ve seen it many times. So I thought it would be cool and that it would add some more color to The Defenders. And obviously I can do my own fight sequences, so those would be more dynamic.”
Tan's observation here is one that many fans made well ahead of Iron Fist season 1's premiere, going back to when the role of Danny Rand was actively being cast. Iron Fist showrunner Scott Buck has called attention to the show's more inclusive portrayal of K'un-Lun (where Danny is raised and trained), as well as other elements of the Iron Fist comics source material, in response to criticisms of the decision to not change Danny's ethnicity for the TV show. Nevertheless, with Jones playing its namesake, it has become all-but-impossible for Iron Fist's freshman season to avoid the comparisons to previous superhero TV shows such as Arrow and films like Batman Begins; with Danny's personal narrative and character arc being labeled as derivative of those from similar "prodigal son returns" stories that have been explored before.
Other aspects of Iron Fist season 1 (pacing, fight sequences) have been taken to task for being subpar in quality, compared to those in Marvel/Netflix series past. However, as the actor himself notes, Tan being cast as Danny Rand would have not only addressed the call for more diversity amongst The Defenders' ranks in the MCU, it might have even helped the show improve in other areas that it has been criticized for. That includes the show's action scenes, as Tan is a seasoned stunt performer and martial artist himself - something that might have indeed allowed Iron Fist's fistfights to be filmed in a more "dynamic" fashion, to paraphrase Tan. Either way, this all makes for substantial food-for-through for everyone to consider, when it comes to adapting other superhero properties for either the big and/or small screen, in the future.
Iron Fist season 1 is now available on Netflix. The Defenders will arrive sometime in the summer, with The Punisher coming later this year. Daredevil seasons 1 and 2, Jessica Jones season 1, and Luke Cage season 1 are now available on Netflix. Premiere dates for the newest seasons of Jessica Jones, Daredevil, and Luke Cage have not yet been revealed.