Live-Action SWORD ART ONLINE Producer Not Interested In "White-Washing" Netflix Series
When Sword Art Online comes to Netflix as a live-action series, it will be with a primarily Japanese cast. Executive producer for the series Laeta Kalogridis (who just finished Altered Carbon) dismissed any speculation that any white-washing could happen with the series in a recent interview (via Kotaku):
Well, let’s get the obvious bit out of the way, right away. SAO is an essentially Japanese property, in which Kirito and Asuna, who are the two leads, are Japanese. In the television show, Kirito and Asuna will be played by Asian actors. Whether or not that was the question underneath your question, it’s not a conversation about whitewashing. When I sold it to Netflix, we were all on the same page. They are not interested in whitewashing it, and I am not interested in whitewashing it. In terms of the secondary characters, because the game is meant to be global, the way it’s presented in the anime and in the light novels, there are secondary characters that clearly are from other parts of the world, like Klein and Agil. To me, it’s very obvious when you watch it that you’re meant to take that this game spans the globe, but Kirito and Asuna are very clearly located as kids from Japan, and Tokyo, if I’m not mistaken. That is what we will be doing because that is the story. They are, in my mind anyway, much like Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell, defined in part by being seminal characters in an Asian piece of art. That’s the first and biggest thing.
For me, personally, that's good to hear. Mainly because a primarily Asian cast means that the series can stay true to its Japanese roots and therefore more in-tune with the tone of the original series. Death Note made the mistake of trying to Americanize its concept (in addition to condensing a long story into a 90 minute film) so I'm all for keeping faces familiar to American audiences out of the series if it means we can get a true live-action adaptation of the series with a Netflix budget. Plus, like Kalogridis mentioned, just because Kirito and Asuna will be Japanese, SAO is a global game so there will be opportunities to sprinkle in other nationalities of characters provided the plot calls for it.
I'm loving what I've heard about this project so far, let's just hope it stays on the right track.