One of the most contentious subjects to come up during production of Marvel and Netflix's Iron Fist (opens in new tab) was the nationality of hero Danny Rand. In the comics, Rand is white, but some argued that casting an actor of Asian ethnicity would be more appropriate. Agree or disagree, a Vulture (opens in new tab) interview with actor Lewis Tan (who plays Zhou Cheng in the show) reveals Marvel gave it some serious thought.
"I had a lot to offer here, but I knew that the character is white in the comic book, so I was concerned. But I thought at least I had a shot - I’m half white and I do martial arts and I could easily play that role. So I was excited," Tan said. "And then I read for Danny 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 maybe two weeks later."
Tan went on to say he thought casting an Asian-American would've provided an "interesting dynamic" to the show and the upcoming Defenders (opens in new tab). "I think it would be really interesting to have that feeling of an outsider. There’s no more of an outsider than an Asian-American: We feel like outsiders in Asia and we feel like outsiders at home," he said. "I understand those frustrations of being an outsider. Like Danny’s character. I understand him very well."
Despite the setback, Tan said he understands why Marvel chose to cast Finn Jones as Rand, and holds no ill will toward anyone involved. Even so, Tan hopes things will change in the future. "It is a missed opportunity... It would’ve been a brave thing to do, for sure, for Marvel. I can see how that was difficult to make that decision," Tan said. "I think, personally, it would’ve paid off."
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Images: Lewis Tan