Despite all the controversy, Lakeith Stanfield, the actor playing eccentric detective L in Netflix’s “Death Note,” is not at all convinced that the movie is whitewashed as what some critics claimed. Stanfield, in his talk with The Verge, has answered several questions regarding “Death Note”. One of the topics he talked about is the controversial issue of whitewashing in the film.
“As far as the issue of whitewashing, I think it’s a fundamental misunderstanding,” he said. “Especially when applied to this film in particular, because this film takes place in Seattle, in America. So it would make sense that the cast reflects American demographics.”
Not only the actors playing the role, but their character names have also gone through whitewashing. In the original Japanese material, the lead character’s name is Light Yagami. In the American version, however, he goes by the name of Light Turner (played by Nat Wolff).
His love interest, Mia Amane (Margaret Qualley), is also not safe from this controversial mess as she is now known as Mia Sutton.
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Fans of the Japanese series, which is created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, were not pleased when they first discovered the American adaptation will not feature Asian-American – or Japanese-American – actors in its line of lead cast members, Cosmopolitan reported.
“There is an Asian-American [character] in the film. If people would go out and see it, they would realize that,” he said.
“But the idea that we should turn the whole cast into a Japanese cast just doesn’t fit the demographics of America. And that’s the reason it didn’t happen. It’s not because we were trying to make a conscious decision to not cast — at least, this is my opinion. I’m not the person in charge of it.”
It’s true, there is in fact ONE Asian-American actor included in the cast full of Caucasian artists. Masi Oka (“Heroes”), who is also the producer of the movie, was tapped to play an unknown role in the film, but reports speculated he will only portray a minor role.
“But in my opinion, it didn’t look as if it was because we didn’t want anybody. That’s ridiculous,” he continued. “Japanese people created it, I mean, they’re the people behind it. And so that’s just a fundamental misunderstanding.”
As for the whole whitewashing issue, Stanfield defended that the production made something new for Netflix’s “Death Note”.
“[People] misunderstand sometimes what an adaptation is. We are taking the original source material and creating a new story with that as a spine. [The original version is] the skeleton. We give it the blood and the guts and the skin. And that’s what the movie became.”
American adaptation – or Hollywood for that matter – of foreign materials has never been quite successful in terms of positive feedback from the fans. One movie worth mentioning is the 2009 “Dragonball: Evolution.”