Back in 2015 when Marvel Television was searching for their live-action Danny Rand, news emerged that the House of Ideas was actually considering an Asian or Asian-American lead for ‘Iron Fist’. While the role ultimately went to ‘Game of Thrones’ star Finn Jones, many True Believers were still curious about which Asian or Asian-American actor came close to playing the Living Weapon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, they can uncover those secrets for themselves thanks to a new interview from Vulture. However, if you’ve made your way through the latest Marvel/Netflix series, then you’ve already met him.
During the eighth episode of Marvel’s latest show, True Believers saw the chi-wielding warrior from K’un L’un face off against a formidable foe named Zhou Cheng. Though he was unable to best our hero, the drunken master working for Madame Gao did put up one hell of a fight thanks to the skills of the half-Chinese, half-white British martial artist/actor from Los Angeles named Lewis Tan. But if things had gone a little differently, he would have been on the other side of the fight as the one controlling the mystical powers of the Iron Fist. Unfortunately, things just didn’t work out that way:
“I got a lot of positive feedback and a lot of positive encouragement from Marvel and from the casting people. So I know they were saying good things about me, but then they chose not to [cast me]. But then the fact that they asked me to read again for a different character is a testament to they liked my work enough.”
While Tan acknowledges that ‘Iron Fist’ would have been a very different show in many ways with him as the lead, he echoed the sentiments of a number of fans by saying that it was a missed opportunity for Marvel to not cast an Asian-American as Danny Rand. And for everyone saying that Danny “has to be white” in order to be an outsider in this story, the actor eloquently explained why that just isn’t the case:
“I personally think it would have been a really interesting dynamic to see this Asian-American guy who’s not in touch with his Asian roots go and get in touch with them and discover this power. I think that’s super interesting and we’ve never seen that. We’ve seen this narrative already; we’ve seen it many times […] I think it would be really interesting to have that feeling of an outsider. There’s no more of an outsider than an Asian-American: We 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. Like Danny’s character. I understand him very well.”
As great as that could have all been, Lewis Tan couldn’t have single-handedly improved ‘Iron Fist’. Sure, the fight scenes might have been better due to his expertise, but despite not being as bad as critics initially made it out to be, the show still wasn’t very good due to the writing and layout of the plot. However, at least with an Asian-American Iron Fist, audiences would have been able to see something different for once, which is what Tan explains as very important for them:
“The world doesn’t look black and white. The world is grey. Everything is grey. Everybody’s mixed up. Like, it’s 2017. People want to see themselves represented and we want to see what our real life looks like on film and on TV. That’s why those movies that don’t show that — they flop. Because people are like, ‘Ah, that’s not how it is.’ And now people are pretty angry.”
At the end of the day, Finn Jones was fine as Danny Rand. He worked with what he had and his performance wasn’t exactly the biggest problem to plague the series. But it’s hard not to imagine how different (and potentially better) the show could have been if Marvel had just gone in a different direction with their leading man. Let’s just hope that the Asian heroes we do have in this corner of the MCU like Colleen Wing (and hopefully Shang-Chi) get a fair shake in the future.
What did you think about Finn Jones’ performance as Danny Rand in ‘Iron Fist’? Do you think that the show would have been better with Lewis Tan as the star? Or do you think that the material would have been subpar regardless of who was the leading man? Sound off in the comments.
‘Iron Fist’ starring Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, David Wenham, Jessica Stroup, Tom Pelphrey, Rosario Dawson, and Carrie-Ann Moss is currently streaming on Netflix right now.