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This Is Not What We Meant By Colorblind Casting

By Kristy Puchko | Film | May 10, 2017 |

By Kristy Puchko | Film | May 10, 2017 |

Exodus: Gods and Kings. Gods of Egypt. Aloha. Pan. Doctor Strange. Ghost in the Shell. Hollywood loves a whitewash. And it seems no matter how much flack it gets them, or how it hurts their box office, producers just can’t get past the casting concept, “But what if white people?” The latest movie to leap into this offensive and financially damning trend is Ni’ihau.

Don’t let the name fool you, it definitely stars a white guy. But before we reveal which ignorant actor is happily whitewashing now, let’s learn a bit about Ni’ihau’s subject, Benehakaka Kanahele, a Native Hawaiian who was a central figure in World War II’s Ni’ihau Incident.

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a Japanese pilot named Shigenori Nishikaichi crash landed on the small Hawaiian island of Ni’ihau. There, the locals treated him as their guest, caring for his injuries and even throwing him a party as they sought out a translator so they might understand him. But the festivities took a dark turn when the news of the Pearl Harbor attack came out. Nishikaichi was imprisoned, his papers confiscated. But as night fell, some Japanese loyalists on the island conspired to free him. Kanahele and others stood against them.

This story includes a prison break, a house set ablaze, a midnight run for help, and a hostage situation that ends in a violent confrontation. Kanahele and his wife Ella rushed Nishikaichi, who shot the former three times (in the groin, stomach, and thigh). Still, Kanahele hoisted the pilot over his shoulders and chucked him into a wall, dazing him. Then, Kanahele executed Nishikaichi, slitting his throat with a hunting knife. For this, Kanahele was awarded a Medal of Merit and a Purple Heart.

Here’s what he looked like. That’s Kanahele on the left, holding up the Medal of Merit and Purple Heart presentation.


Now here’s who’s set to play him in Ni’ihau:


Deadline reports Shameless actor Zach McGowan will front Ni’ihau as Benehakaka Kanahele. And I know, sometimes we don’t like to blame actors for taking a whitewashing gig, because it’s so hard out there, even if you’re a super famous and a beautiful white person who appears in several movies every year. We should blame the producers who cast him instead, right? Good news! He’s both. McGowan, who can reportedly pull off a mean Irish jig, is an executive producer on Ni’ihau alongside 27 Ten producer Ken Petrie who had the gall to say this of the film:

(With any true story) there is a weight to be shouldered, and the material requires the utmost care and authenticity.

Authenticity? Really.

You know casting a Jason Momoa wannabe doesn’t count as casting Native Hawaiian Jason Momoa, right?


As if that wasn’t enough to make your skin crawl, the Ni’ihau Incident wasn’t just a dark chapter in Hawaii’s history, but the also the inciting incident that spurred Franklin D. Roosevelt to begin America’s internment of Japanese-Americans.

It doesn’t seem they’ve cast the role of Nishikaichi yet. Wonder if Johansson is busy.