If you were able to stomach at least eight episodes of Netflix's underwhelming and critically panned Marvel series Iron Fist, you would've seen the actor who almost got the lead role of Danny Rand. Asian-American actor Lewis Tan plays the villain Zhou Cheng in episode eight — a character with an exuberant fighting style that feels like a Jackie Chan Drunken Master pastiche, with a bottle of booze in hand as he squares off against Danny.
While the Iron Fist series has a litany of problems, the fight between Danny and Zhou Cheng was met with near-universal praise from fans online. The main reason? Tan's take on Zhou Cheng was hilarious and charismatic.
Many Iron Fist reviews took issue with Finn Jones' portrayal of Danny, a character with a problematic on-page history, and the actor's subsequent reaction blamed everything from critics to President Donald Trump. So it certainly feels like Marvel took a big swing and missed with the final member of The Defenders.
In an interview with Vulture, published Monday, Tan explained why Danny's character would've been a perfect role for an Asian-American actor.
I personally think it would have been a really interesting dynamic to see this Asian-American guy who's not in touch with his Asian roots go and get in touch with them and discover this power. I think it would be really interesting to have that feeling of an outsider. There's no more of an outsider than an Asian-American: We feel like outsiders in Asia and we feel like outsiders at home. That's been really difficult — especially for me. It's been hard for me, because in the casting world, it's very specific. So when they see me and I'm 6'2", I'm 180 pounds, I'm a muscular half-Asian dude. They're like, 'Well, I don't know what to do with this guy.' They're like, 'He's not Asian, he's not white ... no.' That's what I've been dealing with my whole life. So I understand those frustrations of being an outsider. Like Danny's character. I understand him very well.
Tan also talked about how he originally auditioned for the role of Danny, an arduous process in which he was brought back for several readings. Tan says he believed he had a good chance, considering his martial arts background and the fact that they asked him about his availability — typically, a precursor for getting the gig. Eventually, Tan wasn't given the role, but was offered the chance to play Zhou Cheng. But he — like many Marvel fans — saw it as a missed opportunity for Marvel.
"It is a missed opportunity," he told Vulture. "That's exactly how I feel about it, word for word. It would've been a brave thing to do, for sure, for Marvel. I can see how that was difficult to make that decision. I think, personally, it would've paid off."
While Tan's character is defeated by Danny in episode eight, the character could ostensibly return if Iron Fist gets a second season, Though, really, with a Rotten Tomatoes score currently at a pathetic 19%, Iron Fist's renewal is hardly a guarantee.
Sadly, we'll never know if Tan's take on Danny Rand would've helped a very flawed show. However, we can still admire what could have been through Tan's Twitter account, where he's currently pinned a tweet highlighting his stunt work.
Iron Fist is currently streaming on Netflix.
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