Lately I’ve been scrolling past headlines about Iron Fist. And Sarah’s texted me a few times about how bad it is. To be honest, my care level was pretty low …until last night, when I read Vulture’s interview with Lewis Tan, the Asian-American Actor Who Could Have Been Iron Fist. Lewis auditioned for the role. He was told that producers liked him. He can perform stunts and he’s experienced in martial arts. And, well, as you know, they went with a white guy in the lead and gave Lewis a part as a “one-off villain”. Now that the show has been released – and it sucks – people are bitching about the casting. But, as The Mary Sue pointed out yesterday, “why does support for PoC casting only show up when it’s far, far too late to do anything about it?” Last year, when details of a Mulan spec script featuring a white male lead were leaked, there was instant feedback and, almost immediately, Disney sources offered assurances that live-action Mulan would feature a Chinese cast. The Mary Sue argues that that needs to happen more often.
Back to Lewis Tan though and what he shares about his experience working in Hollywood:
“(Asian Americans) feel like outsiders in Asia and we feel like outsiders at home. That’s been really difficult — especially for me. It’s been hard for me, because in the casting world, it’s very specific. So when they see me and I’m six-two, I’m a 180 pounds, I’m a muscular half-Asian dude. They’re like, “Well, I don’t know what to do with this guy.” They’re like, “He’s not Asian, he’s not white … no.” That’s what I’ve been dealing with my whole life. So I understand those frustrations of being an outsider.”
Six-two, 180 lbs. And experienced in martial arts. You know what that looks like? Enjoy:
Six-two, 180 lbs. Muscular.
If you stop there, well, what’s the problem? There is no problem. The “problem” comes when you add “half-Asian” to the description. And then it’s, “Well, I don’t know what to do with this guy”.
I could tell you many things that could be done with this guy. Like a lot more things than whatever they keep doing with Zac Efron. But can you hear how the next part of the conversation might go? After “I don’t know what to do with this guy”, what comes next? “I don’t know what to do with this guy because…I only see him as an Asian gangster. Or nobody’s going to believe he could be the male love interest. Or …WHAT?” What, exactly, would the objections be?
I’ve been creeping his Instagram for half an hour and believe me, there are no objections here. Especially not when he hangs out with these two:
The guy in the middle is Asian American Kolten Jensen, also a model and actor. You want to see more? My pleasure. Here’s Kolten talking about his experience as a biracial man in America:
Here’s a shot of Kolten that I just thought you might want to stare at.
If you want to take even more of a detour, the guy on the far left in the group shot above is Adam Lundberg.
Here’s Adam with his parents:
Here’s Adam taking my breath away:
Anyyyyyway, last night, after reading the Lewis Tan interview, I texted Sarah about Iron First. Danny Rand, the main character in Iron Fist, was originally white in the comics. Sarah told me that the comic was created in the 70s “when kung fu exploitation was all the rage”. That would have been in the time of Bruce Lee, inspired by Bruce Lee, and certainly after his death in 1973. It’s still just so f-cking weird that you can watch Bruce Lee, be stirred by his brilliance, be motivated to create after seeing him perform… and what your imagination spits out is a Bruce Lee only without the Asian-ness?
Lewis Tan says he just worked on a film with Forest Whitaker. He plays a “Southern football player. That’s it. There’s no martial arts. It’s just a drama. I play a Southern football player from West Texas”. Going forward, he hopes that more work like that will come his way:
“I want to play roles that are going to give the younger generations of Asian-Americans hope, where they see themselves as love interests, as heroes, as badasses, as confident protagonists. It’s a vicious cycle: They see themselves as nerds and fourth and fifth secondary characters in the background, and that’s how they start to feel. And they start to think that other people feel that way about them because of their ethnicity. Everybody loves cinema, everybody watches it and it affects the world. So I want to play roles that they can look at and be inspired by.”
Click here to read the full Vulture interview with Lewis Tan.
Yours in gossip,