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‘Last Airbender’ TV series voice actor speaks out about film controversy

HollywoodNews.com: Dante Basco, the voice actor of Zuko (played by Dev Patel in M. Night Shyamalan’s film adaptation) in Nickelodeon’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” television series, has spoken out about his decision to boycott the film on his blog.

Basco, who is Filipino-American, writes that he had expressed interest in playing Zuko–the Fire Nation prince whose character journey takes him from enemy to hero over the course of the series, but who is played essentially as the film’s villain–again in the movie adaptation, but that Shyamalan had a different vision for casting: one that controversially involved casting predominantly white characters in originally Asian roles.

He writes, “The fact of the matter is, in Hollywood…it’s not fair. It’s not fair at all, the tables are tipped unfavorably for ethnic actors…So…to boycott or not? I still feel a loyalty to the whole project, I helped to make it popular and I hope the film does justice to a near perfect animated series. Boycott is a strong word, but I do know that I won’t go see it opening weekend…I just don’t think it is at all viable for white actors to play ethnic roles… at least until they let us play white roles.”

“The Last Airbender”, which opened today, has been roundly slammed by critics and audiences alike, with Roger Ebert calling it “an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented.” The question of whether Hollywood casting white actors in ethnic roles is a product of institutionalized racism continues to be asked.

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  • July 2, 2010 | Permalink |

    Jake Gyllenhaal playing an arab prince? Solid move Disney.

  • July 2, 2010 | Permalink |

    He’s complaining that Asian roles are going to white actors? Am I missing something or did they say that his part went to Dev Patel? How is that an Asian part going to a white actor? I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, but the timing on this statement just seems off…

  • July 2, 2010 | Permalink |

    @Jason: The original casting of Zuko was Jesse McCartney. The outcry was so loud that he was replaced with Dev Patel. So Basco’s point holds. If the original cast has stayed in tact, all the actors would have been white.

  • July 3, 2010 | Permalink |

    @ Jason and Puaena: I think they should’ve kept the ethnics the same. Water Tribe: Indian, Earth Kingdom: Chinese/Korean/Japanese, Air Nomads: I feel they did an adequate job there. Maybe more pale asians, Fire Nation: Chinese/Japanese. And if you think about it, the reason behind the original skin tones is legitimate. Azula is pale asian because she’s royalty and spent alot of time indoors, away from sun before her mission. Zuko and Ty Lee are a slight shade darker, olive maybe, because they were high rank but then began to spend more time outdoors. Katara and Sokka lived outdoors, they worked and did labor, there was still sun in the South Pole, so their skin is darker.
    Jesse McCartney was replaced because of his tour conflicting with training. Oddly enough, Dev Patel was one of the best actors in the film. Nicola Peltz was pathetic, Noah Ringer was alright but frowned too much. Dante would’ve been great in the film, plus I think he might have helped the fact that no one in the movie could pronounce the names right.

  • July 4, 2010 | Permalink |

    @Jason: The original cast was all white (originally called for all white cast, no brownies), so put your self in his shoes (if you are empathetic enough) as when he went to casting call and had the Zuko part given to a white singer/actor (i forgot his name, look it up). The white actor dropped out and after the backlash from the public on all white casting did the role of Zuko go to Dev Patel and other brownies were included. This was a great opportunity to make a children movie with diverse characters so that kids watching it can truly feel part of it, sadly M. Night failed and his supporters, like you, fail.

  • July 4, 2010 | Permalink |

    Yeah, Jesse McCartney was original casted for Zuko (all white, see?) but he dropped out, so Dev Patel got it on second thought, after much backlash.

  • July 9, 2010 | Permalink |

    Dante Basco to play Zuko in remake of last airbender. Actually, I wouldn’t mind seeing other voice actors play there respective characters. Also, in my opinion, there is no white washing going on in this movie. Asian actors could have auditioned for the parts because of the open casting. If they looked the part and gave a good performance then the most likely would of been cast. Can we please stop with the harsh comments toward the actors though. It really wasn’t there fault. That is the fault of the director/writer who made a great show into a boring movie that had the worst climactic ending. You think something is gonna happen and it just doesn’t. Those who seen the movie know what I mean.

  • July 14, 2010 | Permalink |

    I did like how the different ethnicties were given a chance to shine! Esp The representation of Commander Zhao!, it was to a T! I liked AAng too, esp his actions and his voice was spot on…. Nicola tried, but just didn’t get Katara quite right and I just do NOT understand why the uncle with the best polite funny quip comic relief and lesson-learning lines did NOT come across at all!! He was like Zukos jimney cricket conscience guide. To me, Dev just didn’t make me feel the FIRE, but yes, Dante would have been perfect. That right there should have been a no-brainer, true fans woulda flocked, and more voice ppl should represent the movie version, esp when it fits like a perfect puzzle piece. Perhaps he can come back in any sequels if they make some….. also i’d like to see appa be funnier too….. but i don’t give a damn, Jake in Prince of Persia is just like how they had Orson Wells play Othello (with a shadow cast over him the whole moive) back in the day and all white men and women playing Native Americans (with darker/.redder make up on)…. I mean this is nothing new here, i’m not shocked, and it’s still not cool. But M. Knight just didn’t make the movie flow very well from scene to scene. It was aight

  • July 18, 2010 | Permalink |

    I think the main factor here is M. Night. Funniest thing ever: my friends and I recently went to the movies to see Inception, and before the movie began the trailers were playing. One seemed a bit interesting where these people where trapped on an elevator and apparently the devil was there with them. The moment M. Night Shyamalan’s name popped up there was a collective GROAN from the entire audience. He hasn’t done anything awesome since The Sixth Sense. The man ruined something that could have been epic, had the right person done it. And I agree, the casting was all wrong.

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