Nico in comic book series 'Runaways'Almost lost in the negative reviews for M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender were the strong concerns expressed about the whitewashing of the characters, i.e. casting Caucasian actors in roles originally portrayed as Asian characters. Shortly thereafter, Marvel announced that it was moving forward with their production of Runaways, Brian K. Vaughan's teens-run-from-their-super-villain-parents comic book series (description lifted from Peter Hall in his Cinematical news roundup).

When the casting call for the movie went out, Racebending noticed that Nico, a character explicitly described as Japanese-American in the series, was not specified as Asian, meaning that Asian-American actresses would be less likely to be considered for the role (as opposed to the specification for lead character Alex, noted as African-American, and the other roles, which did not specify any ethnicity). Did Marvel intend to whitewash Runaways?

Marvel says no. Responding to the article and the reaction in the Asian-American community, Marvel told Racebending in a prepared statement: "As we do with all our films, we intend to stay true to the to the legacy and story of the comic when casting these parts. Thus, our goal is to cast an Asian American actress as depicted in the comic series and the casting notice will be adjusted accordingly."

The site says this is a direct result of their phone calls and emails to the "production, Marvel Studios' corporate communications, and Walt Disney Studios executives in the Multicultural Initiatives division," and outlines the other steps they have taken to ensure that Asian-American actors have the opportunity to audition for the role.

Runaways is set to start filming in January; Peter Sollet (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist) will direct. This sounds like a very positive step, but if the pressure hadn't been applied, would Marvel be casting an Asian-American actress for the part?