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"Runaways" Movie Casting Breakdown 
5th-Aug-2010 10:24 am
The casting breakdown for Marvel's "Runaways" movie was released today. You can view the official casting website here and articles about the casting here and here.

The Runaways crew is pretty diverse as comic book teams go, at various points in the story there's African American and Japanese American team leaders, a girl who has a BMI above 20, a Latino Catholic, and lesbian and genderqueer characters.

Fans of the comics will be familiar with the characters to be used in the adaptation...

Alex Wilder
Boy 1: Very smart, natural leader, in need of a father figure
Male, African American, must play 16-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011

Chase Stein
Boy 2: A rebel, ignores rules and authority, wounded inside
Male, must play 16-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011

Nico Minoru
Girl 1: Uniquely beautiful, nurturing but guarded
Female, must play 16-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011

Gert Yorkes
Girl 2: Chubby oddball, smart and verbal
Female, must play 16-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011

Karolina Dean
Girl 3: Conventionally beautiful, with an unchecked ego
Female, must play 15-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011

Molly Hayes
Girl 4: An innocent, wide-eyed and overprotected
Female, must play 8-10
Must be at least 9 by January 2011

So these casting calls follow a lot of Hollywood conventions when it comes to breakdowns, namely the idea that characters who are white don't need ethnicity mentioned in the breakdown because it's taken for granted that white actors will submit (but a character who is black, like Alex, does require specification.)

What's particularly of concern is that the breakdown for Nico--who is explicitly featured in the comics as a several-generations Japanese American--does not mention that the character is Asian, or that Asian American actresses should submit. Nico is simply described as "uniquely beautiful" as opposed to the blonde Karolina's "conventionally beautiful" descriptor.

Although Runaways is an ensemble, Japanese American Goth Girl Nico Minoru was the series' predominant heroine, featured on the cover of the very first issue.

A Hollywood agent trawling casting breakdowns for an Asian American client would not likely stumble upon this role that is tailor-made for an Asian American breakout star. It certainly doesn't sound like Marvel is prioritizing actresses of color in this search. And readers of racebending.com know that just recently, unclear and biased casting calls for The Last Airbender led to the erasure of characters' ethnicities and reinforced Hollywood's glass ceilings for lead roles.

Racebending.com will absolutely follow up on this casting breakdown. This looks like an easily corrected oversight, so we will contact the right people at Marvel about this issue. If you have an anonymous tip on this situation or contact information for the higher ups, please email us at mlee@racebending.com
5th-Aug-2010 09:23 pm (UTC) - TL;DR
Nico is a masculine name of Italian/Spanish/Portuguese origin. - It's short for Nicolas. I think was they were going for was "Neko", though I don't believe that's a real name. Also... not to bash the original team because I LOVE THE ORIGINAL TEAM - but it wasn't until one of their later artists that I realized Nico was in fact supposed to be Japanese.

I don't want to use the "anime is ambiguous" argument because that's total bullshit, but the first artist drew her features pretty much exactly like Karolina's. Minoru IS a Japanese name... it's a male given name as well, iirc, but I've got reading issues and I always read it as a spelling of Monroe because, again, we're not really given any context for "oh by the way guys she's Japanese-American" until Joss Whetdon wrote the "BACK TO THE TURN OF THE CENTURY" issues and [SPOILER]we are introduced to one of her great great great great grandmothers... who is dressed as a traditional temple priestess.[/spoiler] That threw me off and made me go "Wait, really?" until they had the artist changover again after that and while I wasn't a huge fan of any of the story arcs after that one... at all... the artist actually did make it clear "HEY NICO? SHE'S JAPANESE-AMERICAN. SHE DOES NOT LOOK LIKE A SHORTER KAROLINA WITH A DYE JOB AND COSTUME CHANGE"

Which makes this all the more aggravating because, again, LIKE WITH AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER, they either didn't care enough to do the research (READING AHEAD TO SEE WHAT THEY'RE IN FOR), or they knew and just didn't care. What if they make it to the point where they cover the Joss comics? Unlikely as it is, it still makes me flail and yell.
5th-Aug-2010 10:06 pm (UTC) - Re: TL;DR
I'm pretty sure Vaughan makes reference to Nico being Japanese American (even being on the receiving end of sexually demeaning stereotypes for it) before the Whedon run, too.
5th-Aug-2010 10:15 pm (UTC) - Re: TL;DR
Nico is a masculine name of Italian/Spanish/Portuguese origin. - It's short for Nicolas. I think was they were going for was "Neko"

Her name doesn't have to be Japanese just because she is fourth generation Japanese American. I'm first-gen Taiwanese American but my name is British by way of Rome.
5th-Aug-2010 10:23 pm (UTC) - Re: TL;DR
Nico has been popularized as a name for women ever since the singer/model/actress Nico took it as her stage name in the 1960s.

Brian K. Vaughan did make references to Nico being Japanese-American in his original run of the series. One bad guy calls her an "Asian Sensation" and a priest assumes she's quoting a "zen parable" based on her race when she's actually quoting the Bible.

Edited at 2010-08-05 10:23 pm (UTC)
6th-Aug-2010 12:00 am (UTC) - Re: TL;DR
I thought the 'zen parable' moment was brilliant, one of the few things post-BKV's run that actually got done right. I loved their characters, screwed-up and occasionally cliche though they sometimes were.

And then Joss came along. True to form, he stuck Nico on the sidelines during the time travel episode while he introduced a beautiful quirky white girl for one of the boys to fall tragically in love with while derailing Xavin and Karolina's dynamic besides. ARGH. [/nerdrage]
6th-Aug-2010 02:51 am (UTC) - Re: TL;DR
I thought the 'zen parable' moment was brilliant, one of the few things post-BKV's run that actually got done right.

Actually, that was still part of BKV's run. Volume 2, issue 10.
8th-Aug-2010 06:40 pm (UTC) - Re: TL;DR
Ah, no wonder it didn't suck. I was mixing it up with Joss's bit--didn't have my books on hand. Thanks!
5th-Aug-2010 11:49 pm (UTC)
Please excuse the rp journal

Adrian Alphona and Jo Chen always drew her with the intent to be Japanese American. It was in her character bio, there were comments in the first run of the comic regarding it, "Asian Sensation" etc.

And it could be that Alphona's style improved and diversified over time but I think it's pretty obvious they were trying to draw her as Asian from the start.
6th-Aug-2010 05:12 am (UTC) - Re: TL;DR
She was shown as being of Japanese origin pretty early - as we see her parents in the first handful of issues and they were drawn to be obviously Asian (even so far as to make their alter egos ninja types).
6th-Aug-2010 04:21 pm (UTC) - Re: TL;DR
Really? Ninja types? ...sigh.

Maybe it's not as bad as it sounds, but I totally gave your comment the side-eye when I read that. (The side-eye not being directed at you of course, but at the idea of the Asian characters apparently being total stereotypes.)
6th-Aug-2010 04:25 pm (UTC) - Re: TL;DR

Her parents are the ones in the red. They're supposed to be witches.
7th-Aug-2010 06:15 am (UTC) - Re: TL;DR
Enh. Their outfits are sorta the stereotypical ninja costume, although because of the cowl I think they were going more for stereotypical magician costume. They're never shown to be ninjas--they actually practice black magic.
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