Thanks to bold shows like Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cake, Netflix’s corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe frequently ventured into darker and more complex dramatic territory than its multiplex counterpart. But there were still some places where those now-discontinued series didn’t venture. In a new interview streamed as part of #SaveDaredevilCon — an online fan campaign to revive the canceled series — former Daredevil star Peter Shinkoda alleges that former Marvel Television head Jeph Loeb instructed the writing staff to excise material intended for the show’s Asian cast members, including Madame Gao (played by Wai Ching Ho) and his own character, Nobu Yoshioka.
“I’m kind of reluctant to say this ... but I have to, because I just have to. I’m not into really protecting certain things anymore,” the actor remarked. “Jeph Loeb told the writers’ room not to write for Nobu and Gao. This was reiterated many times by many of the writers and showrunners.” Shinkoda went on to say that Loeb’s attitude was that “‘Nobody cares about Chinese people and Asian people,’” and that the executive producer pointed to the big-screen Blade trilogy based on Marvel’s vampire-turned-vampire hunter as evidence. “‘Wesley Snipes killed 200 Asians in each [Blade] movie, nobody gives a s*** so don’t write about Nobu and Gao.’ So [the writers] were forced to put their storyline down and drop it.”
Actor Peter Shinkoda, who played Nobu in Netflix’s Daredevil talks about how Jeph Loeb, the head of Marvel Television (at the time) forcibly cut his character’s original story arc because ‘nobody cares about Chinese people and Asian people’.— Will (@WilliamD1123) July 26, 2020
Absolutely appalling. pic.twitter.com/bGbIycbc7R
And Shinkoda clearly mourned the storyline that the writers had in mind for him. In the series, Nobu functions as the go-between connecting New York crime boss Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) to the Hand — a Japanese ninja clan with grand plans of its own. Blind vigilante Daredevil (Charlie Cox) becomes the fly in their ointment, and has an epic fight with Nobu at the end of Season 1 that apparently results in the ninja’s demise. But he’s back and badder than ever in the show’s second season, as the Hand continues to make life difficult for the hero of Hell’s Kitchen and fulfill its mission to create the ultimate weapon known as Black Sky.
According to Shinkoda, the writers had worked out some compelling backstory for Nobu to explain his Season 2 return. “It was a very interesting storyline about having to go [to New York] under the guise of getting some kind of a transplant for medical reasons. A lot of paperwork and bureaucracy was fudged so that Nobu could get into the country and then carry out his Black Sky plans,” the actor revealed. “All that backstory was dropped, and the writers told me they regretted it, because they were so stoked about including that in the storyline, but they were prevented [by Loeb]. So I had to concoct this other storyline and rock that material that I was given. Regretfully, I didn’t get to ever explore that.” (Daredevil was canceled in 2018, and Netflix’s remaining Marvel shows ended the following year. Loeb departed Marvel Television at the end of 2019.)
Later on in the livestream, the actor revealed that neither he nor Wai Ching Ho were even invited to attend Daredevil’s second season premiere. “I’m sitting at home watching commercials of me fighting people,” he remembered. Shinkoda posted that story on Twitter as well and received an outpouring of support.
#WaiChingHo aka #MadameGao and I, aka #Nobu of #Daredevil weren't at the season 2 premiere...because we weren't invited. Wai was insulted...and that pissed me off A LOT. We found out about the event as it live-streamed. "They" were sorry we were "overlooked". #HellsKitchen pic.twitter.com/S6i8FSHiBt— Peter Shinkoda (@PeterShinkoda) July 26, 2020
Thank you for speaking out. They way you were treated was beyond disrespectful. There's so much that was offensive with how Asian characters, and culture were handled on those shows.— Black Women's Lives Matter. Carolyn Hinds (@CarrieCnh12) July 26, 2020
That's awful. Extremely sorry to hear that happened. I liked these two characters a lot, actually. Both were menacing, and really compelling. It's ridiculous how some people just don't appreciate that when it's in front of them the entire time. Keep fighting the good fight, man!— Shaurya Chawla (@_ShauryaChawla) July 27, 2020
This is seriously messed up and unacceptable. You both brought so much to #Daredevil. Your presence in the series was necessary and appreciated, even if “they” didn’t think so.— Rob (@RobCabrera) July 26, 2020
Shinkoda was joined on the livestream by two other Daredevil supporting players: Geoffrey Cantor, who played Mitchell Ellison — editor in chief of the fictional New York tabloid the New York Bulletin; and Tommy Walker, who played Fisk’s henchman, Francis. Cantor spoke up after Shinkoda described Loeb’s actions, asking his co-star whether he thinks things might have played out differently if Daredevil was being made in 2020 versus 2015. “I absolutely do,” Shinkoda replied. “People are more familiar and less in denial about the issues that we’re dealing with nowadays. I think it would be approached a hell of a lot more delicately.”
Walker added that Hollywood’s renewed emphasis on diversity would likely also have changed the complexion of Netflix’s most controversial Marvel series, Iron Fist. When the widely panned show premiered in 2017, it was criticized for casting a white actor, Finn Jones, instead of seizing the opportunity to rethink the character — who had traditionally been white in the comics — and cast an Asian lead. And, in fact, it was later disclosed that Marvel TV had considered casting Asian-American actor Lewis Tan as Iron Fist before ultimately deciding on Jones. “I personally think it would have been a really interesting dynamic to see this Asian-American guy who’s not in touch with his Asian roots go and get in touch with them and discover this power,” Tan told Vulture in 2017. “I think that’s super-interesting and we’ve never seen that.” (Tan eventually played one of the show’s villains, Zhou Cheng.)
Cantor alluded to that behind-the-scenes story on the #SaveDaredevilCon livestream, gently chiding Marvel for not being more ambitious in its casting. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it have been interesting to really explore the racial disconnect if they had made Iron Fist half-Asian and half-not Asian, where he didn’t fit anywhere. You could have brought such grace and intelligence to a topic through this genre. If they missed any opportunity to show what they were made of, I thought perhaps it was in the Iron Fist universe.” Walker noted that former Daredevil producer Doug Petrie had ideas for Iron Fist that were “along those lines.”
“They were very thoughtful and progressive for the time,” Walker continued. “I think it would be handled very differently nowadays.” Shinkoda agreed that his past hopefully won’t be the prologue for future Marvel projects, which includes the upcoming movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, featuring Kim’s Convenience star Simu Liu as the company’s first big-screen Asian superhero. “I have confidence,” the actor remarked. And Marvel fans have his back.
Daredevil and Iron Fist are streaming on Netflix
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