Critics have largely maligned the series for having thin subtext and questionable action sequences, but more importantly, the show has been stung for its "white savior" overtures. Finn Jones, who portrays the title hero Danny Rand, even quit Twitter after receiving online blowback for his virtual conversation with a writer who'd suggested the character should've been portrayed by an Asian-American actor instead of him.
Now, actress Jessica Henwick, who portrays Colleen Wing, has spoken up about her reaction to the series featuring a white man at the center of what is largely an Asian narrative.
The Game of Thrones alum told Entertainment Weekly that she initially struggled with her decision to join the show because of that very casting decision. "It was a hard decision to make to join the show. Not because of the material or anything, but I'm part of the Asian community. I'm Asian. I'm an actor. If anyone understands the conversation, it's me. I've lived and breathed it," Henwick said.
Henwick ultimately accepted the role, she explained, because of the merits of her character. "When I came on to Iron Fist, it was really Colleen Wing that sold it for me. I thought it was a good opportunity to see a really strong female Asian-American ... She's not a superhero; she's just an ordinary person who has the guts to fight people with superpowers. Which I think is amazing!"
She added that she still feels hopeful that a show will come along with an Asian actor or actress in the superhero lead sooner than later saying, "I would love to see an Asian-American superhero. And I think it's going to happen. There's something about fantasy and sci-fi that seems more welcoming of different ethnicities. It means that I've been presented with a lot of really cool opportunities."
Her thoughtful response comes on the heels of what was said by creator Roy Thomas, who downplayed the controversy in an interview with Inverse, saying, "I try not to think about it too much. I have so little patience for some of the feelings that some people have. I mean, I understand where it's coming from. You know, cultural appropriation, my god. It's just an adventure story. Don't these people have something better to do than to worry about the fact that Iron Fist isn't Oriental, or whatever word? I know Oriental isn't the right word now, either."
Henwick herself offered a very pointed tweet on the day that Thomas' words came out by writing, "Oriental is a term used to describe rugs, not people."