We all know by now that the main actors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are impeccably well-cast. It’s impossible to imagine anyone other than Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Stark, and Chris Evans seems like he was destined to play Captain America.
Meanwhile, even Spider-Man -- a hero that has seemed doomed to be rebooted every few years -- has found an actor in Tom Holland who’s believable as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man.
On the small screen side of the MCU, though, the casting is a little more hit-or-miss. There have been some incredible casting decisions that have helped the MCU thrive on TV screens across the country. Those actors embodied their characters just as much as RDJ or Chris Evans, and helped to bring them to life for audiences who may have never read the comics.
On the other hand, there were some Marvel TV casting decisions that left us scratching our heads after we’d seen the final product. While most of the problems with Marvel properties usually end up being issues with the screenwriting or direction, sometimes an actor just isn’t the right fit for a role.
We’re taking a look at the best and worst casting decisions that the MCU has made with the 8 Incredible Marvel TV Casting Decisions (And 7 Terrible Ones).
15 Incredible: Iwan Rheon as Maximus
Inhumans was probably the biggest flop so far of Marvel’s venture into television programming. Fans and critics alike panned the show for the writing, production value, and overall quality of the viewing experience. Marvel’s probably going to want to forget about this one.
However, one of Inhumans’ few redeeming factors was the fact that they cast Iwan Rheon as Maximus. Fresh off of a turn as Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones, Rheon is such a talented actor that he stole every scene that he was in. (In some cases, he was definitely acting circles around his co-stars.) By the end of the show, a lot of viewers were rooting for Maximus, even though he was the villain.
Each time Rheon appeared on screen, it was a breath of fresh air for a struggling show.
14 Terrible: Isabelle Cornish as Crystal
Unfortunately, one of Rheon’s co-stars also makes our list. Isabelle Cornish, who plays the youngest member of the show’s royal family, didn’t quite hold her own each time she was on-screen. To be fair, that might be because she was required to share a lot of her scenes with a giant CGI dog, but working past that challenge is part of the job.
Even in the moments when Cornish is acting alongside other people, the emotion just doesn’t come across. Rather than looking furious with Maximus for sedating Lockjaw, for example, she just looks a little bored.
Bored seems to be her default for the majority of the show, which doesn’t make it interesting to watch. When paired with an already bad script, her performance mostly just made us want to fast forward.
13 Incredible: Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter
Hayley Atwell may have been originally cast for the first Captain America movie, but we saw her most when she led her own show, Agent Carter. The show was cancelled way too soon, but before its run ended, Atwell proved many times over why she was the perfect actress to cast.
There were some fans who side-eyed the announcement that Peggy Carter would be given her own show, given that she was a more obscure Marvel character. Atwell had to carry the show and prove it had value -- and she did, in every episode. She walks the line perfectly between Peggy’s compassion and take-no-prisoners attitude.
Her acting chops are formidable on their own, but to top it off, Atwell truly loves the character. She’s speculated about what Peggy would have done if Agent Carter had gotten a season three and seems like she'd love the opportunity to play her again.
12 Terrible: Bridgid Brannagh as Stacey Yorkes
On Marvel’s Runaways, their new show on Hulu, there are a lot of great young actors who help to make the show entertaining. Most of the parents are also great -- and fun for older viewers, who might recognize someone like James Marsters from Buffy. Not every casting decision was a homerun, though, and casting Bridgid Brannagh as Mrs. Yorkes seems like a swing and a miss.
The Yorkes are one of the quirkier couples on the show, but Brannagh seemed to interpret that as “use the same slightly stressed tone of voice for every emotion.”
Regardless of the situation, she has the same facial expression and nervous tics. It seems less like a character choice and more like she didn’t want to think about the different ways Stacey Yorkes could emote.
11 Incredible: Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May
Who doesn’t want to see Mulan’s voice actress kick butt in real life? As Melinda May on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Ming-Na Wen has had her fair share of show-stopping fight scenes.
That really is her that you see on screen -- she does all of her own stunts, without a double. That’s incredible for anyone, let alone a woman in her early fifties.
By itself, that would be enough to justify such a great casting decision without even mentioning the acting she does in quieter scenes. Wen kills everything from romantic storylines to tragedy. It’s no exaggeration to say that the show wouldn’t be the same without her.
10 Terrible: Bridget Regan as Dottie Underwood
Dottie Underwood is one of the earliest examples we see of a graduate of the Black Widow program. (Earliest according to MCU chronology, anyway.) She’s Peggy’s adversary on Agent Carter, and some viewers have interpreted her as what Peggy could be like without her moral compass.
Regan doesn’t always deliver on the “cold-blooded killer” front, though. She perfectly pulled off the transition from innocent girl to secret assassin, but after that, it fell flat.
Her performance often came off as a watered-down version of Natasha Romanoff instead of an original character. There should be similarities since both obviously come from the Black Widow program, but basing too much of a performance on a pre-existing character can only end up disappointing.
9 Incredible: Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing
Iwan Rheon isn’t the only Game of Thrones alum to make the jump over to the MCU. Jessica Henwick, who played Nymeria Sand, also has a main role on Iron Fist.
Similar to Inhumans, Iron Fist was critically panned when all of the episodes were released on Netflix. Like Rheon, Henwick was one of the bright spots of the show.
She energized each scene that she was in and became a fan favorite pretty quickly. Henwick does have a stunt double as Colleen for the more difficult moves, but in most of the fight scenes she’s in, you’re watching the results of all the training she’s done.
The only downside to her casting was that her character wasn’t given enough to do considering how well Henwick played her.
8 Terrible: Brett Dalton as Grant Ward/Hive
Brett Dalton has technically played two different characters on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He started off as Grant Ward, a Hydra informant masquerading as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. After Ward was killed by Coulson, Dalton played Hive, an Inhuman using Ward’s body. (Then he was killed yet again.)
Both characters offer opportunities for some really interesting acting work. Dalton’s performance as Hive was a vast improvement from how bland and stiff he was as Ward, but both characters end up being a bit underwhelming.
Instead of taking his characters to new heights or trying to create an extra level of depth, his performance is pretty mediocre. Luckily, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a full roster of other talented actors to make up for it.
7 Incredible: David Tennant as Kilgrave
David Tennant is incredible in basically everything. It’s Marvel’s luck that they booked him to play the villainous Kilgrave on Jessica Jones.
Kilgrave could have been a difficult character to play, since the actor has to make his mind control powers seem simultaneously believable and sinister while veering away from being cartoonish. Tennant does that effortlessly. In some scenes it’s played for laughs, but in others the audience is rightfully terrified of what he’s going to do next.
Marvel has had issues with villains, but with Tennant they found someone who could walk the fine line between charming and sadistic. It’s kind of a pity Jessica Jones beat him at the end of the first season, because it means he won’t be coming back.
6 Terrible: Erik Laray Harvey as Diamondback
Harvey had a hard act to follow. Oscar-winning actor Mahershala Ali portrayed Cottonmouth as the perfect balance of suave, terrifying, and brutal in the first half of Luke Cage.
If he’d been the central villain for the entire season, maybe the later episodes wouldn’t have seemed to drag on for so long. His death towards the middle left room for Erik Laray Harvey to step in as Diamondback -- and to be honest, Harvey couldn’t compare.
Diamondback is Luke’s half-brother and actually manages to get his hands on a weapon that can hurt him. That should have kept the stakes high enough for a riveting end to the first season.
Harvey’s turn as Diamondback didn’t make the character feel like enough of a threat to hold the audience’s interest for the episodes that he was in, and the show suffered for it.
5 Incredible: Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones
Jessica Jones needed an actress who could fulfill a pretty tall order. She had to nail both Jessica’s sharp sarcasm and her genuine desire to help others less fortunate.
She had to be able to convincingly and sensitively portray a survivor of abuse and PTSD. Also, she had to be able to balance all of that while still bringing a level of humor to her scenes. Krysten Ritter delivers on everything.
She helped to bring Jessica Jones to life in a way that made fans of the comics happy (no small feat) and helped abuse survivors find a new, incredible relatable hero. It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role now. There’s no doubt that Marvel absolutely nailed Ritter’s casting.
4 Terrible: Finn Jones as Iron Fist
It wasn’t Finn Jones’ fault that people were unhappy with his casting, but he definitely didn’t help the flames die down. After (poorly) defending himself on Twitter and creating even more drama, people weren’t very inclined to like him once Iron Fist actually hit Netflix. He didn’t exactly redeem himself with his performance.
Maybe his performance would have been better if he’d been given better material to work with -- the showrunners didn’t exactly help him out.
Either way, Jones’ portrayal of Danny somehow manages to lose all the charisma he showed off as Loras Tyrell on Game of Thrones. Tony Stark started off as a self-absorbed jerk too, but RDJ’s performance helped us love him. Finn Jones doesn’t help us out with Danny Rand.
3 Incredible: Jon Bernthal as The Punisher
If you close your eyes and picture in your mind what The Punisher would look like in real life, odds are that you’ll probably think of someone who looks just like Jon Bernthal. Physically -- before you even touch his acting skills -- he looks perfect.
That’s just a bonus, though. Bernthal was able to bring a lot of his own personal experience to the character. He’s spoken in interviews about his struggles with violence and anger issues, a history that would obviously be helpful to draw on for a role like The Punisher.
That helped him to create a character that seems human, when, in different hands, The Punisher could have easily been dismissed as a one-dimensional clobbering machine.
2 Terrible: Anson Mount as Black Bolt
Anson Mount gets some bonus points for helping to create a new sign language for his character to communicate on Inhumans. It’s not easy to portray a character who doesn’t speak, since dialogue is a huge part of how we express ourselves. Still, the sign language wasn’t enough to make his performance compelling.
Since Black Bolt doesn’t speak, Mount needed to rely on facial expressions to really emote... and it doesn’t work well. Most of the time on screen he looks vaguely perturbed about something. It could be the food he ate for breakfast, it could be that Maximus sent him into exile-- it’s the same face for both, so who knows.
Maybe Millie Bobby Brown can give him some tips for acting without dialogue?
1 Incredible: Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil
Daredevil had to be a good enough show for people to not only want a second season, but want to watch more television shows created by Marvel.
Whoever they cast as the titular character would go a long way towards helping to establish the Netflix arm of the MCU, especially since a lot of people were skeptical about Daredevil after the disastrous Ben Affleck movie.
Cox brought a ton of emotion to the character, earning him rave reviews and establishing the Marvel Netflix series as a serious effort, not just something to be written off.
He even got special contact lenses that made it impossible for him to see so that he had a brief experience of living without sight. Cox helped Daredevil become one of the best superhero shows on TV -- Marvel couldn’t have hired a better actor.
What do you think? Have we gotten it right or missed the mark when it comes to Marvel TV casting? Let us know in the comments!
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