It seems like every month, the producers of Netflix’s Death Note can’t stay out of the limelight due to whitewashing claims – and the producers are their own worst enemy.
Last month, producer Roy Lee spoke to Buzzfeed, saying the accusations of whitewashing is false because he’s spent the past 15 years working on American remakes of Asian movies and has never faced controversy before. He went as far to say that the cast is fairly diverse: they have 2 Caucasian, 1 African-American, and 1 Asian-American cast in roles.
Well, an old interview that producer Masayori “Masi” Oka had with Entertainment Weekly has resurfaced and he basically confirmed that the whitewashing allegations aren’t off-base. Oka said, “They could have gone with an Asian actor, I can’t deny that. The studios were adamant about trying to cast Asian actors. I mean, this was a difficult one. It was something we were definitely conscious about.”
The problem seems to be that the studio is trying too hard to balance casting people to appeal to fans of the original while trying to appeal, in Lee’s words, “the English-language market.”
Asian-Americans (and minorities in general) have a hard time getting cast in starring roles. Edward Zo, an Asian-American actor who auditioned for the role of Light Yagami, was explicitly told he wouldn’t be cast because he is too Asian looking.
Death Note is set to premiere on Netflix on August 25