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13 Actors Of Color Who Should Have Played These Whitewashed Roles

Updated August 23, 2019 543 votes 76 voters 1.6k views13 items

List RulesVote up the actors who would would have been awesome and more appropriate in the role.

Women and people of color in Hollywood are finally getting the chance to tell their diverse stories. Though change is slow, the industry is starting to take the hint and has begun to address one of its most controversial practices: whitewashing.

Whitewashing describes the act of casting a white actor in a role that was originally written for an actor of color, and it's a practice that's been going on since Hollywood's earliest productions. Today, media is much more sensitive to cultural and race-based issues, but whitewashing still happens. There have been multiple high-profile cases of whitewashing in the last decade alone, and Hollywood's biggest stars have fallen on the wrong side of the hot-button debate at one time or another. 

What would these whitewashed movies look like if the casting stayed true to the original intent? It's hard to say, but there is no shortage of talented actors with varied ethnic backgrounds. If you could recast whitewashing in recent cinema, whom would you choose to play the part?

  • Tilda Swinton was hit with a wave of controversy after she portrayed the Ancient One in Marvel's Doctor Strange. In the comics, the character is depicted as an Asian male, but the gender swapping did not receive as much backlash as the whitewashing of the character.

    Swinton reportedly struggled to understand the backlash, and the actor even reached out to Asian American actor and comedian Margaret Cho about the issue. Cho, who would have been a good choice to portray the Ancient One herself, was unhappy with the way Swinton addressed the issue in private emails and publicly derided Swinton for some of the language she used when speaking about the issue. 

    Cho, who starred in the TV series All-American Girl in the '90s, is a Korean American standup comedian and activist.

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  • The 2008 film adaptation of Wanted, a graphic novel about a world where supervillains wiped out all heroes, took some liberties with the source material. The story went from being about supervillains to being about contract slayers, and James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie were cast as leading roles Wesley and Fox, respectively.

    In the comics, Fox is a black woman whose look was inspired by Halle Berry. Berry would have been best cast in the film since the character was literally designed for her, but the studio decided to go with Jolie instead. 

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  • Rami Malek became a household name after his rock-star performance in Bohemian Rhapsody. It's a shame that it hadn't happened sooner. Maybe he could have played Dastan in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time instead of Jake Gyllenhaal. While Malek is of Egyptian - and not Persian - descent, he's still an accomplished actor who is closer in region to the Persian prince played by Gyllenhaal, who is of German, English, and Swedish descent

    Prince of Persia is remembered as one of the worst Hollywood whitewashing cases in recent history. Even Gyllenhaal himself has stated that the role was a mistake for him.  

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  • 'Pan' - Julia Jones Over Rooney Mara
    Photo: HBO / Warner Bros.

    Too many films cast white actors as Native American characters, and the countless retellings of Peter Pan seem to always make this mistake. In Warner Bros.'s 2015 Pan, Rooney Mara played the classic Native character Tiger Lily.

    This casting disregarded talented Native actors like Julia Jones who would have been great in the part, given her experience with fantastical films and TV shows such as Twilight: Eclipse, Westworld, and more. In all fairness to Mara, she wasn't thrilled about the casting either. The actor has stated that she regrets the role and wishes it had gone to an indigenous actor. 

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