Media Consumers for Entertainment Equality


Actor Dante Basco speaks out regarding the casting of The Last Airbender

July 5, 2010

On July 1st, actor Dante Basco wrote an article on his blog regarding the casting controversy surrounding The Last Airbender: The Last Airbender: To Boycott or Not?

Basco writes:

“Believe me, as an actor, it’s no easy answer. My first gut feeling is, the best actor should be cast for the job no matter race… But maybe that’s just an ideal that is unreal when it comes to making a movie, and making a big budget movie at that. See, my whole career is based on playing roles that were not written race specific, matter fact, if I had to wait for Hollywood to come along with a script for a Filipino American, I would have no career at all.

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. The percentage of roles for ethnic actors to white actors is something to the effect of: in 100 roles, there may be 12 roles for black actors, maybe 7 for latin actors and only maybe 2 for asian 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’m sure I will see it sooner or later, but my money won’t be apart of the opening weekend tally. In this day and age, in America 2010… 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.”

Update: On July 7th, Basco blogged a follow up to his July 1st entry.

“I’ve always thought of myself as an actor first and only realized myself as an “ethnic” actor as I’ve grown up in the industry and experienced the lack of parts I was being able to play. My goal is always to work, but if I can in someway help widen the eye of “Hollywood” film making to include the stories and faces of everyone and not be so focused on one group or another’s perspective… I’m down for that.

“Thank you again for all the fan’s who wanted to see me in the film, Prince Zuko will always be a special character to me and I’m sure Dev did a great job to help bring him to life. For all those who commented on the blog and continue to, thank you… Whether we agreed or not, I think this dialogue needs to happen, the more this comes up, the more the chance actual change can happen.”

Basco is well known for playing Zuko in the animated series that inspired the adaptation, Avatar: The Last Airbender. He’s also famous for his role as Rufio, King of the Lost Boys, in Steven Spielberg’s Hook.

AsiaArts Magazine interviewed Basco about Asian American representation in 2006. In this interview, Basco noted:

“You never forget that you’re a person of color, you never forget that you’re Asian-American. You never can. Being that where I am at my career right now I’m luckily not tied down to just playing Asian characters… I get those opportunities and I’m thankful to get those opportunities. I know a lot of actors don’t get that kind opportunity.”

Earlier this year, Basco blogged about the pressure he resisted, as a teenage actor of color in Hollywood, to get plastic surgery to look less “ethnic”- Dante gets a nose job.

“Growing up in Hollywood, there weren’t many Filipino actors and there was absolutely no Filipino roles, so my jobs consisted of me playing anything and every thing from any form of Latino to any form of Asian and even some black or white roles for characters that they couldn’t find good enough black or white kids. So this question of a nose job arises… I must have only been 14 and was seriously asked to give it some strong thought…”

Categories: The Last Airbender

About the Author

Marissa Lee is one of the co-founders of Racebending.com

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