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Arts & Entertainment

If Game of Thrones characters were Asian and Pacific Islander

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Game of Thrones finally returned to HBO on Sunday, and as an avid fantasy buff, I am ecstatic to see more of Season 6. As an Asian American, however, I find it a little disappointing to see so few Asian faces in the high fantasy genre. Most fantasy shows take place in a medieval setting or borrow from European lore, so it’s very rare to see an Asian knight charging into battle unless it’s a period piece set in Asia. (Let’s face it, Marco Polo is so historically inaccurate that it might as well be considered fantasy.)

Even when a character is written as Asian, Hollywood has a longstanding practice of casting white actors to portray Asian characters (Emma Stone, Aloha) or rewriting the part for racial erasure (Tom Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow). We have yet to see if the casting of Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell is a form of yellowface or whitewashing; either way, it’s another missed opportunity to see an Asian actor in a leading role.

So, in hopes of proving to Hollywood that there are talented and bankable Asian actors who can take on epic roles, I’ve decided to recast some characters from GoT as Asians. For the purpose of this exercise, GoT cast members who are of Asian descent—Indira Varma, Jessica Henwick, and Jason Momoa—have not been included in this list. Let’s begin!

Gemma Chan as Daenerys Targaryen

Photo: Camera Press

Photo: Camera Press

With her striking looks and commanding presence, Gemma Chan is more than capable of portraying the Mother of Dragons. Since last year, the Chinese British actress has garnered highly praises for her nuanced performance as a synth in AMC’s sci-fi drama Humans. You may also recognize Chan from her guest appearances in the hit BBC shows Doctor Who and Sherlock.

Lucy Liu as Cersei Lannister

Photo: Kill Bill Vol.1

Photo: Kill Bill Vol.1

 It takes an exceptional actress to play a cruel yet vulnerable villain like Cersei Lannister, and as one of the few leading Asian American ladies in film and television, Lucy Liu has the talent to take on the challenge. The New Yorker continues to break gender and racial stereotypes with her portrayal of Joan Watson in CBS’s Elementary and has proved that she can pull off fierce villains like O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill and Ling Woo in Ally McBeal. With her experience, poise and charisma, Liu has all the makings of a mean queen.

Daniel Wu as Jaime Lannister

Photo: Vanity Fair

Photo: Vanity Fair

Into the Badlands hero Wu is no novice when it comes to wielding a sword. The California native rose to stardom as an action star in Hong Kong under the mentorship of Jackie Chan. Over the course of his sixty-plus films career, Wu has been featured in martial arts films, romantic comedies, thrillers and art-house films. His wide acting range would be a perfect asset in portraying the morally ambiguous (and handsome) Jaime Lannister.

Justin Chon as Joffrey Baratheon

Photo: Soompi

Photo: Soompi

King Joffrey is a cruel, sociopathic and spoiled brat that everyone loves to hate, and Chon knows how to play a petulant man-child, thanks to his experience on comedies like Man Up, 21 & Over and the Ktown Cowboys web series. The Twilight star has also branched out to more dramatic roles, including Andy Lau’s gangster flick Revenge of the Green Dragons and the upcoming action-thriller Like Lambs.

Naveen Andrews as Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger)

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Photo: ABC

Andrews, a British-born actor of Indian descent, first rose to fame in Hollywood after starring as Sayid in the hit 2004 series Lost. Although Andrew’s tenure in ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland was cut short, his performance as Jafar confirms that he has the charm (and posh accent) to play a suave but ruthless manipulator like Littlefinger.

C.S. Lee as Varys

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Photo by Ryan McVay

Yes, Lee is bald, but it’s his solid foundation in theatre and lengthy experience as a television actor that makes him a good match for Varys, the royal spymaster. Lee is best known for his portrayal of the forensics analyst Vince Masuka in DEXTER and has been featured in several high-profile shows, including Chuck, True Detective and Fresh Off the Boat.

Krista Marie Yu as Arya Stark

Photo by Shanna Fisher

Yu currently stars as Ken Jeong’s rebellious and quick-witted daughter, Molly, in ABC’s Dr. Ken—a role that could serve as groundwork to play the snarky and independent Arya Stark.

Dante Basco as Sandor Clegane (The Hound)

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Photo by Craig Stubing/Haikus with Hotties

 The Filipino American is already famous for voicing Zuko, a brooding Fire prince with a facial burn scar, so it’s not much of a stretch for him to play The Hound. Basco has also dabbled in sword-fighting thanks to his breakout role as Rufio, the cocky alpha-male leader of the Lost Boys, in Spielberg’s Hook. With his killer scowl, Basco could easily channel The Hound’s cynicism and aggressive warrior spirit.

Arden Cho as Sansa Stark

Photo: Jackfroot

Photo: Jackfroot

The Teen Wolf star certainly has the beauty to play Sansa Stark with her doe eyes and sweet smile. More importantly, Cho has the ability to project Sansa’s vulnerability, resilience and quiet tenacity since the actress herself was once a target of bullying in her adolescence.

Randall Park as Ramsay Bolton

Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

At first glance, the Fresh Off the Boat star may seem too goofy to play the sadistic bastard (sorry, former bastard). However, Park has already played a real-life villain as Kim Jong-un in Seth Rogen’s satirical comedy The Interview. Ramsay Bolton might be the most despicable villain in GoT, but he is playful enough to crack jokes and quips at the people he’s torturing. Park’s broad smile would work as a great facade to Ramsay’s psychopathic ways.

Teo Yoo as Theon Greyjoy

Photo: Seoul Searching

Photo: Seoul Searching

 Having been classically trained at New York and London, the dashing German-born Korean actor has the craft to transform himself from the narcissistic, philandering Theon to the traumatized and deformed Reek. Yoo’s most recent screen credits include Equals, Bitcoins Heist and the Sundance coming-of-age film Seoul Searching.

Frankie Adams as Brienne of Tarth

Photo: danielabraham.com

Photo: danielabraham.com

An amateur boxer standing at six feet tall, Frankie Adams not only has the physical stature to play Brienne but also the acting chops. The Samoan Kiwi made her acting debut at age sixteen in New Zealand’s top medical series Shortland Street and recently landed the series regular role of Bobbie Draper, a tough Martian solider, in SyFy’s space opera The Expanse.

John Cho as Jon Snow

Photo: Angry Asian Man

Photo: Angry Asian Man

Sure, the Korean American may not be the right age to play Jon Snow, but you have to admit, “You know nothing, John Cho” has a nice ring to it. Cho, who exudes confidence and leading man quality, would be a great fit as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, especially since he’s already played a capable commander in the Star Trek films.

 

Jessika Van as Margaery Tyrell

Photo: CBS/Rush Hour

Gorgeous with a mischievous smile and sultry lilt in her voice, Van would make a lovely Margery Tyrell—a young queen whose beauty is only rivaled by her shrewdness. The Taiwanese American actress first broke into Hollywood as Becca, the sly ringleader of an Asian clique, in MTV’s teen comedy Awkward, and later starred as the sensual Grace Park in Benson Lee’s Seoul Searching.

Ryan Potter as Tommen Baratheon

Photo: Ryan Potter

Photo: Ryan Potter

As a former Nickelodeon star and the voice of Hiro Hamada in Disney’s Big Hero 6, Potter carries a friendly and good-natured demeanor—a vital trait in channeling Tommen Baratheon, the kind-hearted but easily manipulated boy-king of Westeros.

Daniel Dae Kim as Jorah Mormont

Photo: 3AD

Photo: 3AD

DDK has a knack for playing noble but flawed characters, including Jin-Soo Kwon in Lost and Chin Ho Kelly in Hawaii Five-0, and is well suited for Jorah Mormont, an exiled knight obsessively loyal to a queen he betrayed. There’s no doubt the Korean American would bring gravitas to the role with his intelligence and eloquence. Just imagine DDK’s bass voice saying “Khaleesi.”

Manish Dayal as Daario Naharis

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As Daenerys’ roguish protector and lover, Dayal would make audiences swoon with his smoldering brown eyes and easy-going smile. The handsome Indian American actor starred opposite Helen Mirren in The Hundred-Foot Journey and is best known in television for his recurring role as Raj Kher in CW’s 90210.

Maggie Q as Melisandre (Red Priestess)

Photo: CW/Nikita

Photo: CW/Nikita

(Photo: Nikita poster)

 Maggie Q has a reputation for playing sexy, lethal characters with enigmatic pasts. The Nikita starlet has a her natural grace and intensity to deliver a terrifying performance as Melisandre, the Red Priestess.

 

Daniel Henney as Oberyn Martell

Photo: FayesVision/WENN

Photo: FayesVision/WENN

Handsome, athletic, charismatic, and with a great sense of humor to boot—Henney would make one hell of an Oberyn. The Korean American model-turned-actor has a large international following, much like the fan-favorite Dorne prince. After crossing over to Hollywood with X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Big Hero 6, Henney is currently a series regular on CBS’ Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister

Photo: HBO

Photo: HBO

Dinklage was George R.R. Martin and the GoT showrunners’ first and only choice for the role of Tyrion, and rightfully.  I can’t think of any actor who could equal Dinklage’s performance as the brilliant, sharp-tongued Lannister dwarf. With that said, I think we’re allowed at least one white actor on this list—you know, for the sake of diversity.

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Reera Yoo is a former editor of KoreAm Journal and current contributor to Kollaboration.org (where she was also a past editor). She is a Ravenclaw, writer, filmmaker and K-pop enthusiast. Follow her on twitter @reeraboo
Cover image via South by Southwest
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Written on April 26, 2016 by
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