Reacting to accusations of whitewashing, one of the producers of Netflix’s “Death Note” remake claimed that the roles actually could have gone to Asian actors. This didn’t happen, however, because apparently, the casting team couldn’t find an Asian actor who can “speak perfect English.”
“Death Note” producer Masayori “Masi” Oka, who is also popularly known for his role at Hiro Nakamura in the NBC show “Heroes”, explained to EW the challenges they encountered during casting.
“Our casting directors did an extensive search to get Asian actors, but we couldn’t find the right person, the actors we did go to didn’t speak the perfect English… and the characters had been rewritten,” he 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.”
Since Oka noted that the studios intended for Asians to be cast, is he then implying that it’s too difficult to find Asians who can speak “perfect” English?
“For Ghost in the Shell there hasn’t been a Japanese live action so that’s a little bit different,” Oka further explained. “So if you’re trying to make the Hollywood version that already has a version in Japanese, then it’s like, where do you draw the line?”
The controversy revolving around the remake also baffles Roy Lee, who is also a producer on “Death Note”.
“I’ve been involved in many adaptations of content from all over the world, and this is the first time that I’ve been seeing the negative press,” he was quoted by BuzzFeed in an interview.
Lee said he “could understand the criticism… if our version of Death Note was set in Japan and [featured] characters that were Japanese-named or of Japanese ancestry,” but explains the remake “is an interpretation of that story in a different culture, so there are going to be some obvious changes. Some people will like them, some people may not.”
According to Lee, the current cast is meant to “make it more appealing to the U.S. or to the English-language market.”
“Death Note” stars Nat Wolff who plays high school student Light Turner, who stumbles upon a mysterious notebook that can kill any name written into its pages. Directed by Adam Wingard, the film also stars Margaret Qualley, Keith Stanfield, Paul Nakauchi, Shea Whigham, and Willem Dafoe.
“People can criticize it, but I’d say that they should see the movie first,” Lee added. “Then they could accuse us of not having a diverse enough cast… just judge the movie after it comes out.”