Seriously. Cliff Curtis has also been cast as Fire Lord Frickin’ Ozai, while most of the other Fire Nation characters were played by Indian actors. All his roles as an actual Maori person that I can think of have been in New Zealand-made and set movies (e.g. Whale Rider and The Dark Horse). Much the same is done with Temuera “Jango Fett” Morrison.
It’s weird how the movie-making world tends to ignore the existence of Polynesians outside of Polynesian settings, as if they aren’t found all over the world these days. It’s also weird and creepy that casting agents apparently see them as interchangeable with every other typically mid-brown ethnic group.
Above you’ll see some super A+ responses to the Aquaman promotional image being released and I could write up a whole thing about how these people are gross and wrong but I just want to reiterate what Jason has been expressing so far
“I’ve had to bust ass to be in this industry. A lot of things are very black and white,” he says. “Aquaman is especially cool because being a Kanaka Maoli—being Hawaiian—our Gods are Kanaloa and Maui, and the Earth is 71 percent water, so I get to represent that. And I’m someone who gets to represent all the islanders, not some blond-haired superhero. It’s cool that there’s a brown-skinned superhero.”
“I did go to school for Marine Biology, but the cool thing is… the greatest thing for me is that Polynesians, our gods, Kahoali, Maui, all these water gods, so it’s really cool and a honor to be playing a [water] character. And there’s not too many brown superheroes, so I’m really looking forward to representing the Polynesians, the natives.My family are some of the greatest water men on earth. I’m not, but I’m going to go train with them. But it’s really an honor just being a Polynesian. And water is the most important thing in this world and we all know it. It’s cool be a part of DC’s universe.”
Hopefully people will realize and understand that this film is more than just another superhero movie, it’ll be the first solo superhero film featuring a Pacific Islander actor. The second one will follow soon after with Dwayne Johnson playing Black Adam in Shazam!
Even past that though, Pacific Islander actors have been integral to so many fantasy and science fiction movies, often playing intimidating bouncers, savage creatures (many of the Uruk Hai/Orcs in Lord of the Rings were Maori & Pasifika extras) and most of the time being under an excruciating amount of prosthetics or cgi.
A prime example would be Temuera Morrison who has been steadily working in Hollywood and has portrayed Jango Fett in Star Wars and Abin Sur in Green Lantern but he’s not a household name (unless you live in a Pasifika household) like many of his co-stars in these particular films are.
Then there’s Manu Bennett who was Azog in The Hobbit and is also a prominent character, playing Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke, on the CW’s Arrow, he himself recognizing and discussing the struggles an actor of color has and how representation is incredibly important.
Point is is that as a Pasifika person it’s a very awesome and uplifting thing to have this amount of attention on a Pasifika actor being very open about his identity and incorporating that into his work. I’m all for this Aquaman reboot with a Pasifika lead, I’m all for supporting my own people’s representation before caring about whether or not the lead has blonde hair or blue eyes, and I’m all for recognizing that we’ve been here all along, even when most people don’t notice us.
*(Side note; The article is a little off when it states Temuera was Boba in AotC; Temuera portrayed Jango and Daniel Logan, Boba, so I correcetd the quote. But still!!! Wow! This article got it right though.)