A series of emails between comedian Margaret Cho and actress Tilda Swinton over the recent whitewashing controversy of Dr. Strange has been made public.
It all started when Cho went on Bobby Lee’s podcast Tiger Belly and described their conversation that took place prior to the release of the movie as tense. Swinton played the part of the Ancient One, a part that upset many Asian Americans since the character was originally a Tibetan man in the original comic book, but was changed for the movie.
Cho portrayed Swinton as being more interested in quelling the controversy than learning about why so many were upset.
“I felt like a house Asian, like I’m her servant,” said Cho. “It was so weird.” It felt like “a fight about why the part should not have gone to her. That’s what I thought.”
Cho said Swinton asked her to keep their discussion private.
After the podcast, Swinton responded by releasing a series of emails between the two with Vanity Fair.
The emails appeared less tense in tone and more cordial than Cho described on the podcast. Vanity however did not print Cho’s part of the email exchange, just Swinton’s. Swinton’s team says the five emails they released represent Cho and Swinton’s conversation in its entirety. The exchange began on May 13.
“The diversity debate – ALL STRENGTH to it – has come knocking at the door of Marvel’s new movie DR STRANGE,” wrote Swinton to Cho. “I am told that you are aware of this. But since I am that extinct beast that does no social media, I am unaware of what exactly anybody has said about any of it…I would really love to hear your thoughts and have a – private – conversation about it. Are you up for this? Can we e-mail?
Swinton repeats the line of thinking Marvel Studio put out during the controversy saying the studio wanted to avoid the “tired cliche.”
“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,” she said. “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.”
For her part, Cho said “the part should not have gone to her. We’d fight about it and basically it ended with her saying, ‘Well I’m producing a movie and Steven Yeun is starring.’
Swinton will star in OKJA which is produced by Bong Joon Ho and also features Steven Yeun.
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