Long before the first trailer for “Iron Fist” arrived, Marvel’s latest Netflix series was mired in controversy. After a series of debates about whether Marvel could or should cast an Asian-American actor in the role of Iron Fist, the studio found their Danny Rand in “Game of Thrones” star Finn Jones. In light of this ongoing debate, “Iron Fist” star Jessica Henwick — herself an Asian-British actress — weighed in on the topic and defended her co-star during an interview with The Daily Beast.
“Look, I am Asian. I am Asian and I am an actor. If anyone understands, it’s me,” she said when asked to address fans’ fears of cultural appropriation. “I have faced it in my career. I’ve been working eight years and I’ve experienced it firsthand, the disparity when it comes to Asian representation — even more than that, Asian misrepresentation.”
“But I also have seen what Finn’s done in this role and I honestly, honestly think that he smashes it out the park,” she concluded.
In the comics, Iron Fist is a wealthy white kid who gets lost in the Tibetan mountains and stumbles into the mystical city of K’un-Lun where he grows to adulthood and becomes the training ground’s greatest fighter. The character was created in the 1974 and has since been criticized for being a white savior figure. Many fans hoped that Marvel would cast an Asian actor in the role, to sidestep the critiques.
Henwick isn’t the only “Iron Fist” star defending Marvel’s decision to cast a white Danny Rand. In an earlier interview, Jones himself also insisted that his character wouldn’t be a white savior: “I understand where this frustration comes from. I understand the need for more diversity in television and films, especially for Asian actors. I understand that frustration. I agree with it, and I stand in solidarity with that voice… Now what frustrated me about this particular case is that people haven’t seen the show. They don’t know what we’re doing it with it. And actually, what we’re doing with it is very interesting and we’re tackling issues of what people are upset about. Danny is not a white savior. Danny can’t even save himself, let alone an entire race of people.”
Henwick’s comments also arrive on the heels of the upcoming series’ negative reviews. Over a series of early reviews, many critics are citing pacing issues, a subpar plot and underwhelming action sequences. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the reviews reflect the first six episodes of the series, leaving hope that the back-half of the season will rebound from what sounds like a stumble of a start.
Debuting on Netflix on March 17, “Iron Fist” is a production of Marvel Television developed by Scott Buck and starring Finn Jones as Daniel Rand, Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing, Jessica Stroup as Joy Meachum, David Wenham as Harold Meachum and Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple.
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