Social media users are decrying the casting of Zach McGowan, a white actor, who has been tapped to play a native Hawaiian in the World War II drama Ni’ihau, as the latest example of Hollywood “whitewashing.”
The film follows the true story of a Japanese pilot, Shigenori Nishikaichi, who crashes his plane on a nearly-uninhabitated Hawaiian island after the Pearl Harbor attack. McGowan, who most recently co-starred in the Emmy-winning series Black Sails, plays Benehakaka “Ben” Kanahele, a Hawaiian island native who kills Nishikaichi.
But according to social media critics, McGowan’s casting is but the latest example of a Hollywood film studio selecting a Caucasian actor to play a role originally suited for a minority character.
Social media users wasted no time airing their criticisms of McGowan’s casting, many of them calling it an example of “whitewashing.”
— Megumi Haggerty (@MegumiHaggerty) May 9, 2017
Today's example of whitewashing is shocking. That's a real person. A real person and you're just going to erase who he is..
— Oliver Stark (@oliverstarkk) May 9, 2017
Iron Fist and GITS annoyed me, but they were at least fictional. Whitewashing actual history is rage-inducing.
— Sy Almans (@syalmans) May 9, 2017
Some users posted pictures of Kanahele and McGowan side-by-side.
— Nancy Wang Yuen (@nancywyuen) May 9, 2017
— Laura (@lsirikul) May 9, 2017
One user asked if actor Jason Momoa, whose father is of Native Hawaiian descent, wasn’t available for the role.
— Jenny Yang 👲👲👲 (@jennyyangtv) May 9, 2017
Last year, Paramount Pictures’ sci-fi thriller Ghost in the Shell was hit with whitewashing accusations after Scarlett Johansson was cast as the lead role of Major Motoko Kusanagi.
Filming for the historical drama is set to begin at the end of the month at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Malaysia, according to Deadline. Gabriel Robertson is directing the feature and McGowan will executive produce.