The casting of Black actors in a role previously depicted as being a white character in the source material is a surefire way of upsetting some people on social media. The latest such occurrence has come following the arrival of the first look at the High Evolutionary in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3, played by Chukwudi Iwuji. With some fans directly questioning the casting on the director’s Twitter account, James Gunn has responded with an equally direct response to all of those claiming the character has been “unnecessarily race-swapped.”
The High Evolutionary is a character who originally appeared as British scientist Herbert Edgar in Marvel Comics. Depicted as a white man from northern England, the casting of Iwuji brings a change to the MCU that has been seen several times before, whether it is swapping of race or gender, and this one has received the same kind of grumbling backlash online. One comment led to James Gunn being asked why Mark Hamill had not been given the role rather than making it “another race-swapped villain.” Gunn responded by simply saying:
“Because Chuck is the best actor I’ve ever worked with, that’s why. Has zero to do with race.”
This is perhaps the only reason that needs to be given for any casting, that the best person gets the job. However, there are still some who are not entirely satisfied that the right person has been given the role because they want either their ideal fan casting or an exact replica of the source iteration. Being an adaptation of the world of Marvel Comics, changes are often made in the translation to screen, and even though some believe it shouldn’t happen, that can even mean changes to race, gender, or orientation.
Has Marvel Now Done Enough To Address Diversity?
Marvel Comics, like DC Comics, have existed for a long time, so long that you will struggle to find much diversity about the majority of their output. Based on the times they were written, almost all the characters are white, and the vast majority of main characters are straight males. While the early phases of the MCU retained a large volume of white heroes, from Captain America and Iron Man, to Ant-Man and Doctor Strange, recently, more modern Marvel stars have been brought into the franchise, including the likes of Ms. Marvel, Iron Heart, and many others.
Marvel has been hit by criticism before, such as when casting Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange. As Kevin Feige previously explained, the choice was made to try and avoid playing to Asian stereotypes by sticking with the original comic iteration, but the decision backfired. He said:
“We thought we were being so smart, and so cutting-edge. We’re not going to do the cliché of the wizened, old, wise Asian man. But it was a wake-up call to say, ‘Well, wait a minute, is there any other way to figure it out? Is there any other way to both not fall into the cliché and cast an Asian actor?’ And the answer to that, of course, is yes.”
When it comes to Iwudi’s Guardians 3 appearance, James Gunn is happy he has the right man for the job, and that should be enough for anyone to get on board with the choice. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 opens in theaters on May 5, 2023.