Hollywood has a poor record of whitewashing films, especially when it comes to Asians and Pacific Islanders, and it looks like Ni’ihau will be no different.
You may know Zach McGowan from The 100 as Roan, Black Sails as Charles Vane, or Shameless as Jody Silverman. Now, however, he’s been cast in a WWII epic called Ni’ihau, but there seems to be some controversy brewing.
According to Variety, McGowan will play Benehakaka “Ben” Kanahele, a native Hawaiian, despite the fact he’s Caucasian.
Of the movie, Variety also says:
The film chronicles the true story of the Ni’ihau Incident, in which Kanahele rescued Shigenori Nishikaichi, an Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service pilot who participated in the bombing of Pearl Harbor, after he crashed his plane onto the Hawaii island of Ni’ihau. After Nishikaichi escaped and banded with three local Japanese to terrorize American locals, Kanahele and his wife ultimately killed him. Kanahele, who was shot by Nishikaichi, was later hailed by the U.S. government as a hero for helping prevent a takeover on the island. The incident also prompted President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue an executive order placing thousands of Japanese-Americans in internment camps, widely regarded as one of the darkest hours in U.S. history.
Asian and Pacific Islander roles going to Caucasian actors seems to be a theme in Hollywood. Emma Stone in Aloha, Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange, and Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell are just a few of the latest examples. This will no doubt be added to the list of examples.