Tilda Swinton has released a set of email exchanges she had with comedian Margaret Cho regarding her casting in Doctor Strange. On Wednesday, Cho said she and Swinton had a tense conversation prior to the film’s release about Asian-Americans being whitewashed in Hollywood.
When Swinton was announced to play the Ancient One in Doctor Strange, some fans disapproved as she was cast as a character who was a Tibetan man in the source material. It was a touchy subject and some were accusing Marvel of whitewashing the role. Cho, who has been a vocal critic of this, said she and Swinton got into a “long discussion” about the role and mentioned Swinton told her not to “tell anybody” about the conversation. Cho admitted that it was a bit odd and revealed she felt like “a house Asian, like I’m her servant.” And Swinton is now telling her recollection of the events.
Swinton and her team released a set of five email exchanges she had with Cho regarding the subject. In the emails, Swinton says she wasn’t fully aware of the whitewashing controversy but was willing to have a conversation about it. Cho replied with her issues about Swinton’s casting and her general feelings about whitewashing. In one exchange, Swinton said her casting was an effort to “shake up stereotypes:”
“The film – like any film adaptation – is a riff on the books. The Ancient One may have been written as a Tibetan man in the comics, but Marvel, in a conscious effort to shake up stereotypes, wanted to avoid tired cliché. They cast Chiwetel Ejiofor as the second lead – a white Transylvanian in the books. And wrote a significant Asian character to be played by Benedict Wong.”
Cho would later reply that she was unfamiliar with the Doctor Strange source material and supported Swinton’s desire for diversity, but maintained her stance about whitewashing in Hollywood. Cho has not commented on the recently released emails, but from the look of it, they appear to be a civil conversation from two strong-willed individuals.