'Daredevil' actor accuses former head of Marvel TV of making anti-Asian comments

"Nobody cares about Chinese people and Asian people,” Peter Shinkoda, who played Nobu, said the exec communicated to the writers.
Premiere Of Lionsgate's "Midway" - Arrivals
Peter Shinkoda at the premiere of Lionsgate's "Midway" in Westwood, Calif., in November 2019.Tommaso Boddi / WireImage file

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By Kimmy Yam

Peter Shinkoda, the actor who was featured in Marvel’s now-canceled “Daredevil” series, accused Jeph Loeb, former head of Marvel Television, of making anti-Asian comments and cutting his character’s storyline.

Shinkoda, who played Nobu, a high-ranking member of the Japanese underworld organization “The Hand,” made the comments during a livestream panel hosted by #SaveDaredevilCon on Sunday with fellow actors Geoffrey Cantor and Tommy Walker. During the panel, Shinkoda said Loeb had “told the writers room not to write for Nobu and Gao,” who was played by Wai Ching Ho.

“This was reiterated many other times by many of the writers and many of the showrunners that nobody cares about Chinese people and Asian people,” Shinkoda said.

The actor added that Loeb cited the “Blade” trilogy as evidence, saying in that particular series, “Wesley Snipes kills 200 Asians each movie.”

“Nobody gives a s--- so don’t write about Nobu and Gao,” Shinkoda said, recalling Loeb’s words. “And they were forced to put their storyline down and drop it.”

The actor noted that the writers had planned “for months” to write and then implement the Nobu storyline. He said the writers were subsequently very apologetic for their inability to follow through with his arc.

“Their hands were tied,” Shinkoda said.

When reached by NBC Asian America, Loeb declined to comment. Shinkoda declined to comment as well.

During the same panel, Shinkoda also said that he and Ho were not invited to the show’s season 2 premiere. The pair found out about the event as it was being livestreamed, the actor stated on Instagram.

Shinkoda’s comments have been met with support from fellow actors in the comics universe, including Walker as well as “Justice League” star Ray Fisher. NBC News has not been able to confirm or verify Shinkoda’s statements.

Marvel has been linked to several controversies that have prompted criticisms from the Asian American community and beyond in the past. In 2017, the comic giant caught heat after the white actor Finn Jones was cast as the main character Danny Rand in “Iron Fist.” Though the casting stayed true to the source material, the show was slammed for depriving Asian actors of an on-screen opportunity in a series that borrowed from Asian culture and positioned a white actor as a martial arts expert.

Moreover it was later revealed that Lewis Tan, who’s of Asian descent, had been passed up for the role and given the part of Zhou Cheng, who appears in one episode of the series. When asked if an Asian American was ever considered for the role, Loeb told BuzzFeed news that the role required someone seen as an “outsider” to the culture.

"To answer that, just really flat out, the way the story is told and when people see the story, the importance of Danny as an outsider is something that is a theme that runs throughout the entire show," he said.

In addition, when promoting “Iron Fist,” Loeb appeared on stage at San Diego Comic Con in 2018 wearing a karate costume. Jessica Henwick, who played Colleen Wing in the series and is of Asian descent, told Loeb to remove his headband and jacket.

Loeb left Marvel after a decade with the company, The Hollywood Reporter reported in October.

Marvel’s editor-in-chief, C.B. Cebulski, was also criticized after it was revealed he had posed as an Asian writer in the early 2000s, using the Japanese-sounding pseudonym “Akira Yoshida.” Cebulski had also created a false backstory for Yoshida, prompting many people of Asian descent to label his actions as “yellowface.” Cebulski, who's white, responded in a statement, calling the issue “all old news that has been dealt with.”

“It wasn’t transparent, but it taught me a lot about writing, communication and pressure. I was young and naïve and had a lot to learn back then,” he wrote.

And among other controversies, the company blamed diversity for a dip in sales following a 2014 push for inclusion. The claim was heavily disputed as “Ms. Marvel” and “Black Panther,” which centered on characters of color, were both top-selling comics. Marvel exec David Gabriel walked back his words, clarifying that the brand wouldn’t be moving away from more diverse characters.

“Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters ‘not working,’ the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes,” he said.

While Shinkoda wasn’t shy with his accusations, he said he felt optimistic that such a situation would have been handled much differently today. The show was canceled in 2018.

“People are more in touch and more familiar and less in denial about the issues that we’re dealing with nowadays,” he said. “I think it would be approached a hell of a lot more delicately.”