Media Consumers for Entertainment Equality


“Runaways” Movie Casting Breakdown

August 5, 2010

The casting breakdown for Marvel’s “Runaways” movie was released today. You can view the official casting website here and articles about the casting here and here.

The Runaways crew is pretty diverse as comic book teams go, at various points in the story there’s African American and Japanese American team leaders, a girl who has a BMI above 20, a Latino Catholic, and lesbian and genderqueer characters.

Fans of the comics will be familiar with the characters to be used in the adaptation…

Boy 1: Very smart, natural leader, in need of a father figure
Male, African American, must play 16-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011
(Name not listed, assumed to be casting call for Alex Wilder)

Boy 2: A rebel, ignores rules and authority, wounded inside
Male, must play 16-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011
(Name not listed, assumed to be casting call for Chase Stein)

Girl 1: Uniquely beautiful, nurturing but guarded
Female, must play 16-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011
(Name not listed, assumed to be casting call for Nico Minoru)

Girl 2: Chubby oddball, smart and verbal
Female, must play 16-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011
(Name not listed, assumed to be casting call for Gertrude Yorkes)

Girl 3: Conventionally beautiful, with an unchecked ego
Female, must play 15-18
Must be at least 16 by January 2011
(Name not listed, assumed to be casting call for Karolina Dean)

Girl 4: An innocent, wide-eyed and overprotected
Female, must play 8-10
Must be at least 9 by January 2011
(Name not listed, assumed to be casting call for Molly Hayes)

So these casting calls follow a lot of Hollywood conventions when it comes to breakdowns, such as emphasizing appearance for female characters rather than personality traits like for male characters, and also the idea that characters who are white don’t need ethnicity mentioned in the breakdown because it’s taken for granted that white actors will submit (but a character who is black, like Alex, does require specification.)

What’s particularly of concern is that the breakdown for Nico–who is explicitly featured in the comics as a several-generations Japanese American–does not mention that the character is Asian, or that Asian American actresses should submit. Nico is simply described as “uniquely beautiful” as opposed to the blonde Karolina’s “conventionally beautiful” descriptor.

Although Runaways is an ensemble, Japanese American Goth Girl Nico Minoru was the series’ predominant heroine, featured on the cover of the very first issue.

Runaways Vol 2. #28

If cast with an Asian American actress, Nico Minoru will be the first Asian American lead character in any Marvel film.

Nico as depicted by the primary artists of the Runaways series. Her character was designed by Filipino Canadian artist Adrian Alphona.

A Hollywood agent trawling casting breakdowns for an Asian American client would not likely stumble upon this role that is tailor-made for an Asian American breakout star. It certainly doesn’t sound like Marvel is prioritizing actresses of color in this search. And readers of racebending.com know that just recently, unclear and biased casting calls for The Last Airbender led to the erasure of characters’ ethnicities and reinforced Hollywood’s glass ceilings for lead roles.

Racebending.com will absolutely follow up on this casting breakdown. This looks like an easily corrected oversight, so we will contact the right people at Marvel about this issue. If you have an anonymous tip on this situation or contact information for the higher ups, please email us at mlee@racebending.com

Categories: Runaways
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About the Author

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

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  • Meira

    Uch, now this is just sickening! I’ve read up to the fifth book of Runaways (my library only had the first five books…) and Nico and Gertrude immediately became my favorite characters!

    Why should any less emphasis be put on the Asian character than the African-American character? Because it’d be too obvious is a black character was played by a white actor? Well, it’s also obvious with Asian characters! And to think we should just “assume” for the white roles/actors?


    I think what irritates me the most, on a personal level, is that the blond, blue-eyed character is “conventionally” beautiful while Nico is “uniquely” beautiful. I have brown-hair and blue eyes. What am I? Sorta pretty?

    Disgusting, really.

  • Stephanie

    I love this comic book, I really hope it was a “mistake” and they don’t white wash the movie.

    • Heather glover

      Well you know what they say about “hope in one hand, and shit in the other.”

  • Amy Poon

    Isn’t it weird that they emphasize the need for an African-American for Alex Wilder, but not for anyone else? Then clearly they are looking for certain ethnicities…

  • LondonKdS

    Also dodgy since Alex, the only character whose race is identified in the casting call, is the surprise villain at the end of the first long-term arc in the comics. Another Zuko/Dev Patel situation?

  • Havoc

    Oh, great. They better not ruin Runaways.

  • Peach

    So…you’re upset that they don’t mention the race for some of the characters, but are mad that they do mention the race for one of them….What if they didn’t mention the race for any of them? Would that be okay or would you be protesting that? What are you arguing for or against? Should casting be totally colorblind or just when the characters are white – then any person should be able to play it? Or should it only be important for minority characters? Can a Black character be played by an Arab American? Would that be ok? Is it just white people you object to? Can Spider-man be Black? Can Black Panther be white?

    Do we specific all the races or do we not?

    How about this – keep the race of the character that is created by the author the same as the AUTHOR intended. That’s it. That I can get behind. It’s about authenticity not affirmative action of fictional characters.

  • Fortunately, Racebending has taken note of this early. I would encourage Asian-American actresses to study up on this character and hit the casting call in droves. Tell all your friends with acting chops to show up and give it your best shot! These opportunities don’t happen often. So much of this is a numbers game. Make your voices heard!

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  • Jo

    I’d have thought Karolina would be classified as the nurturing one, since she’s more motherly and doesn’t have much of an ego. And uniquely beautiful applied more to the whole “actually a rainbow alien” thing. Who knows.

    Well, in a perfect world Nico will be Asian-American as intended and Karolina’s lesbianism won’t be used for cheap male-oriented fanservice.

    Let’s get to hoping!

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  • Elena

    Thank you SO much, Racebending.com, for taking a stand on this particular film. This is a comic series very near and dear to my heart. I have a goal to somehow get involved with this film. If/when that happens, let me know how I can help. In fact, how can I, both as a fan and advocate for equality, help with this particular issue–or any other issue for that matter? My email should show up on here. (Only the people running the site are about to see it, right?) Anyway, I’d love to be of service. Let me know.


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  • Ninja

    So, since they didn’t specify the race of Boy 2, Girl 1,2,3,4 does that mean it’s fair game for anyone to apply?
    EX: Boy 2 has not been blantly said it is Chase Stein although we are sure by the description it will be. But since they didn’t anyone can apply then. We should encourage all the best Asian American actors/actresses to apply for all the roles then. We gotta use their words of “Casting the best actors” as a double edge sword afterall.

    If anything we should definitely flood the casting call with the best Asian American Actresses we know.

  • too bad

    Well the thing is Open Casting call online ended today 8/15/10, so I don’t think that would make much of a difference. 🙁

  • Actually, it was just extended to September 1st!

  • too bad

    Say whaa?? where is the link??

    *brb auditioning*

  • Somebody get Ellen Wong’s agent on the phone right NOW! lol! She should be on the short list for this…

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  • Asian American actors, for years, have been complaining that they couldn’t get any good roles.

    Hollywood said there just weren’t any roles for Asians out there.

    Now there are! Look at the comic books, novels, cartoons, etc. being adapted.
    And what does Hollywood do? They make them all white!

    “You wonder what your role is in this country and what your future is in it.” — James Baldwin

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