Marvel’s Netflix shows have been a major success since 2015 with the release of Marvel’s Daredevil. There have been a few missteps along the way (namely those involving a secret yet boring ninja organization that shall remain nameless), but there's no denying that Marvel’s Netflix series have taken the streaming platform by storm. There has been some incredibly entertaining and compelling seasons of content in that universe featuring a captivating cast of characters. None of this could work, however, without excellent casting. And conversely, some of the biggest missteps were due to problems with the casting and some of the shows have not been able to recover from miscasting some of the main roles.
With such an eclectic cast of characters, there have been a wide variety of actors brought in to portray these characters. The results have been generally positive but there have also been some major headscratchers. Some of these actors will go on to be the definitive version of that particular character and some of those actors completely miss the mark when it comes to who they are supposed to be playing on the small screen. Some of these actors look exactly like the characters they’re portraying and some of them fail to capture the essence of their character. With any project, there will be casting successes and casting duds. But it’s always interesting to see what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the actors. With that, we're taking a look at ten roles that were perfectly cast in the MCU Netflix universe, nine that missed the mark, and one that we think should've never, ever been seen on-screen.
20 PERFECTLY CAST: CHARLIE COX AS DAREDEVIL
Season 1 of Daredevil is some of the best television that Marvel’s Netflix shows has to offer. The world was gritty, the action was realistic and impactful, and Charlie Cox was an amazing find to portray Daredevil.
An easy selection, Charlie Cox has given audiences a troubled Daredevil whose desire to fight for his city conflicts with both advice from his friends and the teachings of his Catholic faith. Being Daredevil has caused so much turmoil in his life yet he’s unable to stop. We can easily see this conflict on Cox’s face throughout the series. On top of that, Cox really committed to playing a blind person and allowed himself to be led around New York by a blind person while he was blindfolded.
19 NOT SO MUCH: FINN JONES AS IRON FIST
People hated the first season of Iron Fist, and with good reason. The show featured a meandering and annoying version of Danny Rand who talks about being the “sworn enemy of the Hand” way more than he actually fought them. Though Finn Jones isn’t totally at fault, he was definitely a part of the problem.
Danny was whiny, made terrible decisions, and didn’t seem to have a handle on what he actually wanted. One minute he’s trying to get his company back (just because) and the next he wants to destroy the Hand. Neither of these purposes were explored well and Finn Jones didn’t seem to draw on much except an entitled anger when he gave his performance.
18 PERFECTLY CAST: MIKE COLTER AS LUKE CAGE
First and foremost, Mike Colter is probably close to what we would get if Luke Cage jumped out of the comic books and into reality. It’s not just his appearance that invokes comic book Luke Cage, though. Somehow Colter manages to be both cool and ever so slightly corny at the same time.
Luke’s tendency to be both of these things is a vital part of the character. Luke has a magnetic swagger about him, despite his tendency to spout corny lines. Colter also brings a sense of duty brought about by the end of Pops and has a determination that has been shown in the comics ever since he tracked Doctor Doom to Latveria to get the money Doom owed him.
17 NOT SO MUCH: YUTAKA TAKEUCHI AS MURAKAMI
Murakami, like the rest of the Hand, was given one unique trait and no others during the time. However, Yutaka Takeuchi’s Murakami may have had the best introduction besides Alexandra’s and Madame Gao’s. The audience is introduced to him as he’s dissecting a bear that he brought down himself. But throughout the rest of the series, he isn’t anywhere near as threatening.
The material didn’t portray Murakami in a menacing light throughout the series, with Daredevil and Jessica, Daredevil and Danny, and Elektra all dispatching him at different times but Takeuchi’s portrayal didn’t help and he ended up being less threatening than his Nobu Yoshioka, his second in command.
16 PERFECTLY CAST: JON BERNTHAL AS THE PUNISHER
Nearly the entire comic book community cheered when it was revealed that The Punisher would be would be portrayed by Jon Bernthal, or Shane from The Walking Dead. His time on the AMC show made it clear that he was born to portray Frank Castle and he did not disappoint.
Bernthal brought us a layered Castle that was more engaging than any other version put to screen. Yes, he was ferocious, unyielding, and all of the other things you’d expect from the Punisher. But he also gave us a Frank Castle that was truly damaged from his past. This was a Frank wrestling with pain rather than just destroying everything and enjoying it. You could see his family’s passing influence every decision he made.
15 NOT SO MUCH: SIGOURNEY WEAVER AS ALEXANDRA
Sigourney Weaver is an immensely talented actor who is skilled at portraying powerful women who will say and do whatever they think is right. But the part of Alexandra should not have been wasted on Weaver because Alexandra doesn’t do ANYTHING of note in The Defenders.
In the miniseries, Alexandra does a lot of expositing and talking about what she has done/is capable of doing. Weaver even does a good job with what she’s given, giving her a quiet authority, but this role absolutely wasted Weaver’s talents and she should’ve been saved for a much more interesting character in the future.
14 PERFECTLY CAST: WAI CHING-HO AS MADAME GAO
Madame Gao is the only finger of the Hand that actually works well in the Marvel Netflix universe and that has to do with Wai Ching Ho’s enigmatic performance. When she’s first introduced, Madame Gao is the biggest enigma in Kingpin’s cabal. She's soft spoken but exudes ancient wisdom and when Daredevil intrudes in her business, she puts him in his place.
However, Gao would be like any other finger of the Hand if she didn’t have the performance of Wai Ching-Ho giving the role a gravitas far greater than the others around her. She has an otherworldly quality to her performance that gives her a lasting presence. Whenever she’s in a scene, everyone immediately looks to see what she’ll do next.
13 NOT SO MUCH: JESSICA STROUP AS JOY MEACHUM
Iron Fist was a mess for several reasons, not least of which being the casting. All of the characters ranged from meh to terrible with the exception of Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing. Everyone else was inconsistent, including the Meachum family. However the person who gave the least to her role had to be Jessica Stroup as Joy Meachum.
Stroup never gave us much of anything with her performance. Her expressions usually ranged from staring off into space to staring at someone or something. There was nothing there to make her performance memorable. And the “chemistry” she was supposed to have with Danny felt more like a relationship between work friends.
12 PERFECTLY CAST: KRYSTEN RITTER AS JESSICA JONES
There may not be a MCU Netflix hero as complicated and layered as Jessica Jones, and a character like that needs a talented actor to do her justice -- that’s what Krysten Ritter is to Jessica Jones. Over and over again, Ritter has shown ability to make a very damaged and abrasive character like Jessica somehow likeable.
Jessica Jones has been through more than most people can bare and it's left her as a drinking mess of a person. Ritter does an incredible job of showing apathy on the outside but giving hints at the more vulnerable person Jessica is inside. Plus, she's so good at smack talking that we're surprised she hasn't beaten somebody solely with that skill.
11 NOT SO MUCH: PARISA FITZ-HENLEY AS REVA CONNORS
Reva Connors is one of the most important characters to barely be featured the Netflix shows. She’s connected to the origins of both Luke Cage and Jessica Jones but has only appeared in five episodes total between the two series.
Throughout the few episodes we’ve seen Reva Connors, we got no hint of the cryptic woman we found out that she was. She always seemed far too good-natured to have a devious side and Fitz-Henley did nothing to contradict that. Also when she was on-screen, she didn’t offer much of note. Her role was small but she’s an important person to Luke -- she needed to be interesting so that we could see what he saw in her.
10 PERFECTLY CAST: VINCENT D’ONOFRIO AS WILSON FISK
Season 1 of Daredevil wouldn’t have worked as well as it did without Vincent D’Onofrio turning in a fantastic performance as the layered “hero of his own story”: Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin.
Kingpin truly believed he was helping the city and seeing his slow transformation into a more despicable person was heartbreaking. But it was still an incredible sight to see D’Onofrio portray a man as measured yet as ferocious as the Kingpin. One moment he’s enjoying art and the next, he’s caving someone’s head in. The balancing act between the two made every scene he was in genuinely suspenseful. But this side of him was balanced by his love for Vanessa which was crystal clear on every line of D’Onofrio’s face.
9 NOT SO MUCH: PETER SHINKODA AS NOBU YOSHIOKA
Season 1 of Daredevil saw the introduction of many antagonists that were a part of Kingpin’s mysterious cabal. There were several agents from different organizations and one of those agents was Nobu, the second in command of Murakami’s sect of the Hand.
Nobu just isn't really believable as a sinister figure. An important member of Kingpin’s season 1 Cabal and a Lieutenant of the Hand needs to feel like an actual threat, especially if he's your first exposure to the Hand. However, Peter Shinkoda just doesn't give off much in his performance. There's no calculating look of a mercenary detached from reality nor is there a deranged glee to be found from fighting. Even when Nobu comes back, he's just some guy with a scar.
8 PERFECTLY CAST: JESSICA HENWICK AS COLLEEN WING
One of the only bright spots in an abysmal season 1 of Iron Fist was Jessica Henwick who played the martial artist Colleen Wing. Everything about Henwick’s performance was engaging and endeared us to the character when nobody else could really do the same.
As soon as Colleen came onto the show, Henwick gave us a character who was so decisive and strong. She’s an independent person who could be a little rough around the edges, but when she cares about someone, she’ll do whatever she needs to in order to protect and help that person. Henwick even nailed the emotional scenes when she had to fight her mentor, Bakuto after realizing that the Hand wasn’t what it claimed to be.
7 NOT SO MUCH: RAMÓN RODRIGUEZ AS BAKUTO
It doesn’t matter whether he was in the Iron Fist or The Defenders, Bakuto didn’t offer much. Bakuto was introduced in Iron Fist as an antagonist in a series filled with them. And if it wasn't for his relationship with Colleen Wing (portrayed expertly by Jessica Henwick), he'd be the most forgettable out of all the antagonists.
Rodriguez obviously tried to underplay the character to make him seem enigmatic and measured, but the script prevented that from being effective. Rodriguez underplayed a character that was already boring and surrounded by cliches. Perhaps if the material and the world around them was more interesting, that technique would work. But Bakuto ended up being the most bland finger of the Hand and that’s saying something.
6 PERFECTLY CAST: DAVID TENANT AS KILGRAVE
David Tenant’s Kilgrave is the only character that challenges and (to some people) exceeds Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin as the best villain in the Marvel’s Netflix series. Incredibly sinister and completely self-obsessed, Tenant was a complex villain who had a legitimate reason for being the way he is.
Initially, Kilgrave is a charming person with his unassuming demeanor to his easy English accent. It’s this charm makes it so shocking when you see how depraved and sociopathic he is and this is where Tenant shines. Kilgrave is narcissistic and has detached himself from empathy so much that he has convinced himself that he’s done nothing wrong. Tenant shows this detachment so perfectly that it’s easy to forget that he’s just portraying a character.
5 NOT SO MUCH: BOB GUNTON AS LELAND OWLSLEY
The Owl certainly isn’t a major character in Daredevil’s rogues gallery, but that doesn’t mean that his portrayal by Bob Gunton wasn’t correct. We know that having Gunton dress up in an owl-based costume wouldn’t have sat well with the more realistic world of Daredevil, but we should’ve gotten some glimpse of the criminal that his comic book counterpart was.
In the comics, Owlsley is a ruthless criminal and a master at organizing other criminals into his elaborate schemes. If Gunton at least seemed like he had something to hide, it would’ve been better. Unfortunately, in Daredevil, Owlsley is just another sniveling character who is, admittedly, very smart but doesn’t even think about anything bigger.
4 PERFECTLY CAST: ALFRE WOODARD AS MARIAH DILLARD
Alfre Woodard is an actor in a class of her own -- she made this very clear during the events of Luke Cage season 2. Woodard’s slow turn from the well-meaning Mariah Dillard to the ruthless Black Mariah is one for the ages. It started in the first season when she ended her own cousin, Cornell Stokes.
In season 2, she fell deeper and deeper into the mud she had been trying to escape from. Woodard has deftly portrayed Mariah as a character with both intense vulnerabilities and an uncontainable will that burns the brightest in whatever room she’s in. Mariah is an older, 5’3 woman surrounded by superhumans who still seems like she’s the most shrewd and dangerous person in Harlem
3 NOT SO MUCH: RACHAEL TAYLOR AS TRISH WALKER
Trish Walker was introduced in season 1 of Jessica Jones as Jessica’s sister and best friend who was fighting to escape her past and make a name independently of her alter ego: Patsy.
In season 2 of Jessica Jones, however, Taylor didn't mesh with the material. In this season, Trish seemed more like someone who was just mad that she couldn't get her way than an addict driven to dangerous lengths to get the thing she desires. Her storyline didn't even conclude in a satisfying way, with her getting the powers that she didn’t earn. Hopefully season 3 does a better job of playing to Taylor’s strengths.
2 PERFECTLY CAST: MUSTAFA SHAKIR AS BUSHMASTER
Season 2 of Luke Cage was a fantastic season of television. But everyone knows that, especially in television, a season is only as good as its villain and Bushmaster, or Jon McIver, is one of the best in the Marvel Netflix series.
Mustafa Shakir played McIver with such an intensity and dedication that he’s nearly worthy of being put in same pantheon as Kilgrave and Kingpin. The Jamaican accent is absolutely perfect but that’s just icing on a fully developed character. McIver is understandably furious at the Stokes family and Shakir feeds on this, imbuing Bushmaster with a conviction and ferocity that’s really only been seen in Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger. Despite this, he still maintains a charisma that prevents him from becoming truly despicable.
1 SHOULD'VE NEVER: ERIK LARAY HARVEY AS DIAMONDBACK
Season 1 of Luke Cage was a good show that started out very strong. However, the show did have its problems such as its villain problem. Marketing had set up Mahershala Ali’s Cornell Stokes, or Cottonmouth, as the main villain. However, he was offed prematurely and the latter half of the season introduced Erik Laray Harvey as Willis Stryker, aka Diamondback (whose mannerisms were more annoying than anything) as the villain.
Harvey definitely tried but the performance just didn’t land, especially when compared to Ali’s magnetizing performance as a man slowly unraveling as he dealt with someone he couldn’t shoot. This wasted an interesting villain and led to Diamondback, a much weaker villain overall.