Spider-Man is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, having made his cinematic debut last month in Captain America: Civil War – played by Tom Holland. Spider-Man: Homecoming, the character’s first solo outing as part of the MCU, looks pretty promising at this point considering the amount of talent the project has been able to pull in thus far. One key factor to point out is the amount of racial inclusion that’s being reflected with each new casting announcement – not just for Spider-Man: Homecoming, but for other upcoming MCU movies as well, like Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther.
Marvel Studios got some backlash for casting Tilda Swinton in the role of The Ancient One in Doctor Strange – a character who is written to be an Asian man in the original comics. They’ve also taken some heat for their casting of Finn Jones as Danny Rand/Iron Fist in the upcoming Netflix series Iron Fist. Plenty argued that they should’ve cast an Asian actor in the lead role. Marvel certainly isn’t perfect when it comes to this, but they are making progress with other properties.
And now, with news that the studio holds the right to Namor, we’re hearing pretty reasonable casting suggestions pointing towards an Asian actor for the role. Almost all of this can at least partially be traced back to April Reign‘s brilliant #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, which first started last year and continued this year in February – and it looks like the campaign has yielded much better results this time around. That Oscars controversy caused a pretty sizeable shift in Hollywood, and we’re still seeing the ripple effect. A number of actors/actresses/filmmakers of color have been brought onto projects since then, and it’s no coincidence.
Zendaya Coleman has been cast in Spider-Man: Homecoming and confirmed the casting news earlier this year, on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Her role in the film has yet to be revealed.
“I can’t say anything else other than I’m going to be in it,” Zendaya told Ellen. “I have no idea when filming begins. I don’t even know that to be completely honest.”
Zendaya, 19-years-old, has been vocal about her support for successful Black women within the industry, with this being the main motivation behind her move back to the Disney Channel.
One Life to Live star Laura Harrier along with Grand Budapest Hotel and Dope actor Tony Revolori are also part of the Homecoming cast. They will more than likely be playing high school students alongside Peter Parker, with Revolori possibly playing a friend or foe to Peter. Kenneth Choi (The Wolf of Wall Street, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) was recently announced to be part of the project, playing the high school principal.
Most recently, actor/comedian/rapper Donald Glover was announced to be in talks for a role in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Everybody immediately jumped to Miles Morales, since the actor provided Miles’ voice for the animated cartoon Ultimate Spider-Man, but Glover is probably way too old to be playing Miles Morales in this iteration.
Creed‘s Tessa Thompson was announced to be playing Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok earlier this year, playing a character who is traditionally white with blonde hair in the comics. Benedict Wong will be appearing in Doctor Strange – a role that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige promises will be a departure from the stereotypical portrayal of the character in the comics.
“We made changes to some of the other key character in the comic for similar reasons. Specifically, casting Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo and there’s a character named Wong, who is a very big part of comics, and we cast this amazing Asian actor [Benedict Wong] and modernised that role and his talents people will begin to see as materials on the film begin to come out.”
And if you want to include the Netflix shows, you’ve got Luke Cage, which will feature a large cast of Black actors – Mahershala Ali, Simone Missick and Theo Rossi, just to name a few. Jessica Henwick, an actress of East Asian descent, will be playing Colleen Wing in Iron Fist, and that should be featuring other characters like Shang Chi. So while there is a white actor cast in the lead role, there should be actors of color (specifically Asian) cast in supporting roles.
But, I also understand that isn’t always good enough, which still means that Marvel is learning and needs to continue to do better. At the same time, the recent casting choices that have been made are certainly steps in the right direction.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is set to open July 17, 2017; Doctor Strange debuts this November 4; Thor: Ragnarok opens in theaters November 3, 2017.
[Image via Jesse Grant/Getty Images]