Every year, the annual Comic-Con convention invades San Diego, California in July. In probably the most anticipated panel of the convention was for the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which kicks off the new trilogy of Star Wars films taking pace after the original Episodes 4,5 & 6 with Episode 7.
During the audience Q&A session, director J.J. Abrams was asked:
“Two young Asian fans said that one of the reasons they enjoyed Abrams’ Star Trek so much was its diverse cast. They hoped to see the same for Star Wars, but could they expect any Asian characters in future films?
“First, I want to say: go, Asians!” Abrams joked. “I’m not casting the movies that are coming up but if I was I would cast them as only Asian. I think you’ll see there are Asians in this film.”
At the end of this post, I’ve transcribed the Q&A of this in its entirety.
There has been some controversy in the past regarding the Star Wars franchise the lack of Asian representation in the original series as well as the the prequels, as there are a lot of Asian inspired themes (Jedis ~ Samurais).
My most recent recollection of this issue was from this past December 2014 from an NPR piece, Diversity In Space: Tracking The First Asian Pilot In The Star Wars Movies, discussing trying to even identify the Asian actor. And quickly Googling and researching this topic, I was somewhat surprised to find this Forbes contributor’s commentary last year titled The New ‘Star Wars’ Cast: Mostly White Guys.
So I was really happy to see while watching the panel discussion, the question of Asian representation brought up and JJ Abrams’ response. Below is the entire transcript of the discussion (just in case you didn’t want to watch the video – this video from one of the fan’s brother):
Corinne (Star Wars fan): “I’m Corinne.”
Master of Ceremony: “What’s your question?”
Ryan: “This question is for J.J. What we really liked about your Star Trek films is the diversity of the cast.”
Corinne: “We would like to know do you plan on having any Asian characters join the cast in any of the upcoming Star Wars films?”
“First of all, I want to say, “Go Asians!” I mean, I think, I think the whole room feels that way. …
Here’s the thing, I’m not casting the movies that are coming up, but if I were to, I would cast them as *only* Asian.
I think you’ll be happy to see when you see this film, there are Asians in this film. So I was involved in the casting of this movie …
Honestly, the truth is we didn’t write the character of Finn to be you know any color. We didn’t write the character of Ray to be any color.
… We just cast this movie, um, knowing that it was important that …
[My emphasis] We wanted the movie to look the way the world looks. … And I think it is important that people see themselves represented in film. I think it is not a small thing. So I completely understand and think your question is hugely important. And it was a big consideration.
But I’m really proud of the cast we ended up with. Literally, these actors are extraordinary. And when you are working as long and hard as we all have on these movies and you’re editing and you see the choices you have, in terms of performances, take-to-take. I could not be more grateful from all you guys for the work that you did, so thanks for the question.
Kathleen Kennedy (Star Wars: The Force Awakens producer and Lucasfilm President):
“And I will add to that … and I’ll just peak around the corner, that there is every intention to carry on exactly what JJ is talking about in all the Star Wars movies that we’re going to make.”
I thought Abrams gave a really thoughtful answer which seemed very genuine to me.
By the way, during the panel discussion, Abrams showed some awesome behind-the-scenes footage for Star Wars: The Force Awakens:
I can’t wait until the movie comes out!