Open casting for the upcoming Runaways adaptation came out several weeks ago, and for a while there was growing concern that leading heroine Nico Minoru was not going to be cast as Asian American. (Alex Wilder, on the other hand, was specifically emphasized as African American.)
Nico specifically says she is Japanese in the comic series (above), and her surname Minoru is a male Japanese given name (wiki). The goth teenager with sorcery powers is one of the leaders of the team and remains leader for the entire series, and could be the first leading Asian in a Marvel movie role. And for a major comic corporation that prides itself in diversity, including the first black superhero (Black Panther), challenging discrimination (X-Men), the first gay superhero (Northstar) and many others, the omission of Nico’s heritage was outrageous and unacceptable.
According to race advocacy website Racebending.com, one organization who spearheaded this growing concern, Marvel publicly addressed the situation yesterday:
To address your concern over casting for the role of Nico, as we do with all of our films, we intend to stay true to the legacy and story of the comic when casting these parts. Thus, our goal is to cast an Asian American actress as depicted in the comic series and the casting notice will be adjusted accordingly.
Now, the casting reflects Nico’s Asian American heritage:
“Girl 1: Uniquely beautiful, nurturing but guarded
Female, Asian-American, must play 16-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011″
I am extremely relieved and happy that Marvel responded to us fans and changed the casting to reflect Nico’s heritage. I congratulate and give my utmost respect to Racebending and the other advocacy organizations who petitioned and complained to Marvel, and made this change happen. Marvel actually listened to the fans and made the right action, and even gave actresses extra time to prepare; if only Paramount’s had made the same decision instead of casting all Caucasian actors in Last Airbender .
But I’ve still got a small feeling of hesitancy: why, Marvel, did you leave Nico’s heritage out in the first place? If you were quick to recognize Alex’s ethnicity, why not Nico’s? While I’m glad Nico will be appropriately cast in the Runaways movie, and I no longer have to worry about boycotting it, I am still disappointed that we had to kvetch to get it.