The Cast System

I’ve noticed some rather strange casting in television and film lately.

Whether they don’t make sense due to accent, age, beauty or race I want someone to clear them up for me- or at least for writers to learn to defend odd casting choices by including some kind of vague explanation in the script.

Confusion is not a good look on me, I end up resembling an emoticon with appendicitis.

Inception

Inception is a film about dreams which seems intent on trying to misdirect or confuse the audience, so obviously I was trying to pay attention to every detail.

To be honest I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about, the plot made sense to me- asides from one little detail.

Why was Michael Caine (Professor Miles) playing Marion Cotillard (Mal Cobb)’s father?

It’s made quite clear that the Professor is Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio)’s father-in-law and not simply his former teacher/mentor. Quite why he needed to be even more connected to Cobb is a little confounding, but it’s definitely established. Casting Michael Caine may be quite a coup- and he certainly does his thing well.

But that doesn’t explain why the extremely British professor is supposed to be the father of the very French-sounding Mal.

Obviously parents don’t have to have the same accent as their children- my own mother’s South African accent is tempered but extant- but a throwaway line about Mal being educated in France might have cleared it up. Especially as I’m pretty sure that it’s her (American) mother we hear on the phone to Cobb, and in the flashbacks herding the kids inside. It seems like they just cast the roles without thinking about how it would play out, which is a shame because to me it seemed like a red herring, one that’s unnecessary because Michael Caine’s character didn’t really need to have a blood relationship to anyone for him to be a father figure.

Supernatural

No this isn’t about the shapeshifting baby, but about Papa Wincheter. Sam and Dean’s father John is played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan- who’s only twelve years older than Jensen Ackles, the actor that portrays his oldest son. We see young John (Matt Cohen) in flashbacks, and discover that he served in the Marines before he even met the boys’ mother Mary (Samantha Smith/Amy Gumenick) so I don’t think he did father Dean at twelve. (In fact, John was born in 1954 and Dean in 1979, which would’ve made him 25. Yay maths.) I always thought this casting was pretty ridiculous- like the Buffy episode ‘Tabula Rasa’ where Spike (James Marsters) assumes that Giles (Anthony Head) is his father because they’re both English, even though there’s only eight years between them. But then I watched the Star Trek movie where Winona Ryder plays the mother of Zachary Quinto when she’s only six years older than him. I’ve pretty much given up on expecting age-appropriate casting from here on out.

Days of Our Lives

In Supernatural‘s defence if Jeffrey Dean Morgan isn’t really old enough to play Sam and Dean’s dad, at least he’s suitably pretty. I think the show’s been pretty good at casting in that respect- fellow Days of Our Lives alum Brock Kelly as teen Dean was purr-fect. Days of Our Lives on the other hand made a terrible mistake. How is Wayne Northrop (Roman Brady) attractive enough to be mistaken for Jensen (Eric Brady)’s father? Poor move, show.

The Vampire Diaries


The Vampire Diaries seems to have a really weird thing about mixed race characters. Bonnie Bennett (Katerina Graham) plays the best friend of the main character Elena (Nina Dobrev), and the resident witch. We don’t get to meet her parents, but we do see her Grams (Jasmine Guy), who’s also mixed race. Later another mixed race witch, Lucy (Natashia Williams), is revealed to be Bonnie’s cousin and to know Bree. Bree (played by Gina Torres, who is of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent and suitably light skinned for the show) was another witch, who seemed to know quite a lot about Emily Bennett’s grimoire- leading me and Miss Penn to wonder if Bree was supposed to be Bonnie’s birth mother. The only other member of the Bennett family we’ve seen thus far is Bonnie’s great-great-great-great grandmother Emily, played by Bianca Lawson. I’m not sure if Lawson is in fact mixed race but again she’s relatively light skinned (possibly artificially accentuated in the show by her always appearing as a ghost or in flashbacks to be fair).

The way that this family’s portrayed as consisting of multiple generations of mixed raced individuals had me hoping that it might turn out to be a cracky plot point. And then Bonnie makes friends with the only other mixed race person who turns up in Mystic Falls, Luka (Bryton James) who turns out to be a warlock, as does his father Jonas (Randy J. Goodwin, who is again very light skinned). I guess it’s nice to see a teen show that features a bit of diversity (and not in a completely tokenist way) but practically every non-white character is a witch, and every witch or warlock has had the same skin colour. This has to be one of the weirdest portrayals on television! The magical characters aren’t ostracised and feared like the vampires (although there is mention of the Salem witch trials) but the current casting of the witch characters certainly Others them. This is even more uncomfortable in a show which fixates on, and often flashbacks to, a Gone With the Wind-esque past and yet never even mentions slavery.

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

John Cleese plays, as far as I can tell, the biological father of Alex (Lucy Liu) in the Charlie’s Angels sequel. In addition to this being weird casting- he’s rather noticeably not Asian- it’s also creepy, given that he went on to play fellow star Cameron Diaz’s father soon after in Shrek 2. As a weird counterpoint to the Asian Liu being portrayed as mixed race, Kristin Kreuk (of mixed Dutch and Chinese descent)’s character in Smallville, Lana Lang, was apparently supposed to be white. Her biological parents are played by Wendy Chmelauskas and Henry Small, and all her other relatives and ancestors are played by white actors, except the ones that she plays herself. Another weird casting of a TV parent springs to mind- Debra Mooney as the mother of Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) but given that the show was prematurely cancelled maybe it should be given the benefit of the doubt, after all the mystery of Emerson’s adoption episode could have been on the cards.

Weeds

Silas (Hunter Parrish) was always the strangely blond sheep of the Botwin family- otherwise comprised of his mother Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker), his father Judah (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), his brother Shane (Alexander Gould) and their uncle Andy (Justin Kirk). Silas and Shane also gain a baby half-brother, Stevie, later on. In season six the Botwins are on the run and flee to Nancy’s hometown, Dearborn, where Silas meets Lars Guinard (Rick Ravanello) who dated Nancy in high school and who looks suspiciously like him. After much fretting and a Shane-induced paternity test Silas discovers that Lars is in fact his biological father.

Let Weeds be an example to y’all, even the weirdest of casting decisions can be explained with good writing!

8 thoughts on “The Cast System

  1. And what’s up with bonnie’s face? I can’t be the only one who finds it odd!? She’s supposed to be a redhead of druid princess origins in the books too!

  2. Bonnie’s face is definitely askew. It bothers me hugely when she’s facially full frontal, but viewed from an angle, she looks extremely pretty.

    Grey’s Anatomy Cristina Yang has a white father too, but I think she’s definitely meant to be adopted. Possibly. Hmm. Maybe they think if they give Asian (or Asian-ish) actors Asian (or Asian-ish) parents we’ll think they have to act stereotypically Asian.

    Looking at Rick Ravenello’s IMDB page, it appears he played someone related to Jensen Ackle’s character on Smallville – he’s only 11 years older, so hopefully he was in flashback or an elder brother… then again, would it surprise us if yet again it made no sense?

    Still, I LOVE JDM as Daddy Winchester. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    • I think Bonnie’s pretty, her face is just kind of…asymmetrical.

      I haven’t watched Grey’s for years so I’m not authority, but I thought she had a (presumably white) Jewish step-father?

      I totally love JDM as Papa Winchester, wouldn’t change him for anything either! Plus it’s a supernatural show, they can make excuses for weird ageing easily, it’s all good!

  3. Pingback: The Right Phenotype « Pop Culture Playpen

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