In case you need to be brought up to speed, Tilda plays the Ancient One in Doctor Strange — a character who is a Tibetan man in the comics. Back in 2016, Marvel issued a statement saying, “The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time" — but many saw it as a missed opportunity to cast an Asian actor in the role.
Speaking now in an interview with Variety, Tilda referred to the controversy as a “hot, sticky, gnarly moment.”
“I remember at the time having a question mark in my own mind, and being attendant to the public response to the idea that a Scottish woman will be playing this character, and being aware that there was no resistance at all — there was widespread welcome — which shifted at a certain point, for very good reasons with which I had an enormous amount of sympathy," she continued.
“The audience feels ever more empowered to contribute to the narrative and to feel heard within the narrative, and that’s a really healthy social development.”
Tilda also addressed Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige's comments on the role's casting. Back in May, Kevin implied that he regretted the casting, saying that they initially wanted to steer clear of a “wizened, old, wise Asian man" stereotype, but he had realized that there would have been a way to “both not fall into the cliché and cast an Asian actor.” Tilda added that she is “very, very grateful that he said that.”
Tilda also addressed another aspect of the controversy: namely, her interactions with comedian Margaret Cho. In 2016, Tilda reached out to Margaret to talk about the whitewashing controversy. In turn, Margaret said that the interaction made her feel like a “house Asian” because she was being asked to speak on behalf of Asian people to someone she'd never even met before.
“I made a questionable decision to reach out to somebody in a certain way, which was naive and clearly confusing, because their misunderstanding came about because of it," Tilda said.
“I was embarrassed that I had maybe gone up a blind alley in starting the correspondence in the first place — maybe I had confused matters — but beyond that, I have zero regrets.”
The Doctor Strange sequel is due to be released in May 2022.
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