After the huge success of Mortal Kombat, Liu Kang actor Ludi Lin is calling on other major franchises to commit to more Asian representation. Recently, Amazon's Jennifer Salke explained to The Hollywood Reporter why the budget for the upcoming Lord of the Rings series was so high (a reported $465 million budget to be exact). She said that the show was committed to "huge world building", so the budget needed to be elaborate.
Shortly after, Ludi Lin responded to the interview on Twitter by saying, "It's going to be difficult to justify building a "huge world" without any characters that look Asian. Turn that imagine on us @JSalke. It's not hard, we're right here."
The Middle Earth franchise certainly has a history of limited diversity. Both the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies were almost exclusively full of white actors, and although the upcoming Amazon series has cast more people of color, Ludi Lin points out that Asian representation is still underwhelming. Lin's point is that it would make sense for more people that look Asian to appear in a "huge" fantasy world. The Lord of the Rings prequel series would be a good project to make that happen as it will probably not interact with most of the established characters from the two trilogies. It's confirmed to take place centuries before the events of The Hobbit, so it makes room for a whole new cast of characters.
Lin makes a compelling argument, especially considering the history behind previous Mortal Kombat adaptations. The first Mortal Kombat movie famously cast multiple white actors in Asian roles. For example, the Japanese character Scorpion was played by American-born Chris Cassamassa, and Chinese character Sub-Zero was played by French born actor Francois Petit. The most prominent example was the role of Lord Raiden, which was performed by actor Christopher Lambert in the film. The latest Mortal Kombat adaptation, however, stayed true to the nationalities of each character with its casting. The film went on to be a major streaming hit on HBO Max as well as performing quite well at the box office despite COVID-19 restrictions.
The debate of diversity in major franchises has been long and arduous, and it's still as complicated as ever. Many production companies have been committing more and more to representation, but there is still plenty of work to be done according to Lin. His argument is simply that a fake fantasy world like Middle Earth should have more Asian actors. Lord of the Rings is inarguably one of the famous and beloved franchises of all time, and Asian representation within that world would be massive. There has been no response by Jennifer Salke or Amazon on Lin's criticism yet, so perhaps there will be more to the story.
Mortal Kombat stars Lewis Tan as Cole Young, Jessica McNamee as Sonya Blade, Josh Lawson as Kano, Joe Taslim as Sub-Zero, Mehcad Brooks as Jax, Matilda Kimber as Emily, Laura Brent as Allison, Tadanobu Asano as Lord Raiden, Hiroyuki Sanada as Scorpion, Chin Han as Shang Tsung, Ludi Lin as Liu Kang, Max Huang as Kung Lao, Sisi Stringer as Mileena, Mel Jarnson as Nitara, and Nathan Jones as Reiko. Mortal Kombat is currently playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.