The bromance between Marvel Studios and Netflix continues with the release of the Iron Fist trailer this past weekend. Danny Rand, saved by K’un-Lun, trained by Lei Kung, walks the path of righteousness and must accept who and what he is: a living weapon.
There’s a certain amount of turmoil surrounding Iron Fist in its made-for-TV incarnation. For those who know the story line, Danny Rand is a white New Yorker who travels to the ancient city of K’un-L’un and taught mystical kung-fu. Finn Jones, best known to American audiences as Ser Loras Tyrell on Game of Thrones, was cast in the role. Vocal critics of Marvel Studio’s casting decisions note that the production company shies away from making obvious decisions to cast Asians in roles that should require them (such as the Ancient One in the upcoming Doctor Strange).
Casting an Asian in the role of Danny Rand was certainly possible, but using a white actor in the role, in this case, is equally justifiable. We may never know which Asian actors were being considered for the role (and logically, given the subject material, there had to have been some).
Many saw the casting of the lead role in Iron Fist as a stellar opportunity to tip the scales in the opposite direction, but would this have fixed the problem? Maybe not. It could have been seen as an arbitrary move, corrupting the history of the character. Unlike The Ancient One, Danny Rand in the comics has always been white.
The other side of this argument, of course, is that significant changes in casting have worked out just fine in the past, and purists just have their knickers in a bunch, just as they did when Samuel L. Jackson was given the role of Nick Fury, or when Michael B. Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm in the most recent ill-fated Fantastic Four movie. A good actor can overcome the most ardent objections based on race or culture, simply by being a good actor. In the end it’s about the performance, not the skin color.
Setting all this aside, the characters of Danny Rand and Nick Cage have history. It will be interesting to watch how that relationship unfolds, and an important part of the development of both characters.
Iron Fist stars Finn Jones in the title role, features Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing, and releases on Netflix on March 17, 2017 – so we have a while to wait. From this, though, it’s going to be worth it.