If you thought it seemed a little weird that Rosario Dawson would be pulling double duty in the Marvel* universe as different characters in Netflix’s The Defenders and Fox’s X-Men spin-off New Mutants — especially since she’d be planning a medical professional in both roles — the incongruity just cleared itself up. The Hollywood Reporter has learned Dawson has exited the project for unknown reasons. In her place, Queen of The South star Alice Braga will take on the role initially offered to Dawson.
*Yes, the MCU and Fox’s universe are separate but it was still weird.
Braga will play the mutant known as Dr. Cecilia Reyes. A medical doctor and surgeon, Dr. Reyes can conjure a “bio-field” to protect herself from harm. In the realm of the comics, this power is subconscious and continuous. Eventually, Reyes learns to control the bio-field enough to create bio-fields around her fists to use as a bludgeoning weapon similar to a hammer.
A major part of Dr. Reyes character is her background as a Afro-Latinx woman living and working in a culture that finds her as the only person like her in the room. Not that she ever let’s that stop her. Dr. Reyes knows her worth. From Uncanny X-Men Vol 1 #351:
“I’ve lived the past few years as a Puerto Rican woman in the middle of a bunch of white male doctors. I know how to handle myself around bigots.”
Bringing in Braga, who has done fantastic work on Queen of the South, is still a controversial decision. In the comics, Dr. Reyes is a black Puerto Rican. Braga — while having some African ancestry on her mother’s side — is the second New Mutants casting that significantly lightens the skin tone of a major character, the first being the casting of Brazilian actor Henry Saga as Sunspot. As Latinx Geeks points out, Brazilians aren’t a monolith and Sunspot is supposed to be Afro-Latinx, not white.
If you squint, you can kind of see what the casting department is thinking here. In the United States, there’s this misguided notion that being Latinx is a race of people. Probably because the U.S. Census Bureau stubbornly keeps calling it one. But Latinx is merely a geographical location: coming from Latin America. Those countries are as ethnically diverse as the United States. Which means casting a Latinx actor is not interchangeable, much like casting white actors in black roles is not okay.
So I guess, A for effort but D for execution, Fox.