The actor talks Marvel’s “Iron Fist,” and the importance of starting a dialogue around representation
by Atalie Gimmel | March 13, 2017 1:00 pm
You might recognize Finn Jones from “Game of Thrones” as the tragic Ser Loras Tyrell, but in his latest role you’re less likely to stumble across an unfavorable Lannister. This time around you’re bound to root for the 28-year-old actor as a superhero in the latest Marvel adaptation, “Iron Fist,” premiering this Friday, March 17th on Netflix.
The story of Marvel’s “Iron Fist” follows the journey of Danny Rand, a white-collar city boy who’s taken in by a band of martial artists in the Himalayas. Rand eventually transforms into their strongest fighter, granting him the power of the Iron Fist. And the continued journey thereafter is, of course, fruitful with conflict, tumultuous self-discovery and a love story.
The role is an anticipated one– Jones is currently filming its reprisal in the collective Netflix/Marvel superhero series “The Defenders” alongside heroes like Luke Cage and Daredevil. But that’s not to say it’s come without controversy. The casting of Jones as Rand, a white protagonist set against a nonwhite culture, had critics (re: Twitter) feeling like Marvel missed an opportunity to cast differently than what was originally written in the comic. Jones took the brunt of the criticism, especially after re-tweeting a speech by “Rogue One” star Riz Ahmed, and briefly quit Twitter, before returning to his vocal self.
Below, we speak to the actor about his newest role, his passions and his inevitable return to the social platform.
You’ve mentioned that the character’s realness is part of what drew you to this role. What kind of real-world problems is your character Danny Rand going through?
Danny Rand stands out in particular amongst other superheroes because of his ability to be vulnerable. He’s constantly caught in between a paradox of two opposing forces: on one side he’s trying to be this loyal, fierce, strong warrior; on the other side he’s this lost, traumatic child that’s wired to chaos. In the middle you’ve got Danny, who’s just trying to live his life as correct and best as he can.
As an actor, what effect does delving into Rand’s character have on you?
It forces me to be very open and very vulnerable, and to not play something either black or white, you know. He’s a character in a huge arc. I just finished filming “The Defenders” at the moment, and it’s really fascinating to see where Danny Rand starts in the beginning of “Iron Fist,” to where he ends in “Defenders.” He’s really come into himself; figured out his purpose; figured out some form of family. He’s a much more centered human being.
How are you most like Danny Rand?
I think there are vulnerabilities that we share.
How about how you’re different from him?
Let me think – I mean, the character is a virgin. [Laughing] That’s definitely something that I don’t share with him, just to put that out there. Essentially when I bring my characters to life I like to bring them from the inside out, I like to tease the character out from me. So I think there’s more similarity to Danny Rand that I would care to admit.
And you had a little break from Twitter…
[Laughing] Yeah, all of three hours.
In your statement to Deadline you said part of the reason you took the break was to focus on filming. What effect does criticism have while you’re working?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I really think we’ve got a good show on our hands, I really do. You don’t make the shows for the critics; you make the shows for the fans. But I really, honestly, genuinely think at the end of the day, once the show is released the fans and the people that want to enjoy the show will enjoy it.
In terms of criticism, it’s actually been really interesting because Danny Rand has often faced an onslaught of difficulty, but he is someone that his optimism and his strength of spirit have allowed him to push through. And I see a lot of similarities with me, in that case. I understand myself. I know who I am. When people on Twitter are calling me ignorant and calling me racist because I’m playing this character, I understand where that comes from and where that frustration comes from. I try and not let it affect me personally because I just know that’s not what I stand for. I care deeply about social issues; I care deeply about doing the right thing. I care about the same things that people are criticizing me about. I’ve been an advocate for representation in television and film for many years, long before I started “Iron Fist.” And I do think the show represents a wonderful and diverse group of actors. Not just in the first week’s episode, but in all 13. I feel we’ve done a great job of representing actors from across the board.
And I think it’s important to have [Twitter], where we can speak to each other without barriers. But I also think, as an artist in the middle of bringing these characters to life, it’s not helpful to have people’s opinions in your face the whole time, especially when they haven’t seen [Rand’s] whole journey. As an actor it’s not helpful to see those comments because it’s not in line with the originality of what I’m playing.
You are very public about the causes you’re passionate about. I read one blog, which went so far as to say that the Tweeter’s mistake was going up against their own. Do you think it was a mistake?
No. I am incredibly glad that the dialogue is being created. If anything, all of this, this situation, and what I hope people take from it is what my original intent was the whole time: for people to watch that speech by Riz Ahmed at the House of Commons on representation. Whenever people are reading about this small, polite exchange between me and this tweeter on that platform, I hope people are really seeing the point. That’s what is important to me. It’s great that we’re talking about.
Much like the fans of “Game of Thrones,” I’m sure Marvel fans are equally as enthusiastic. Is that the case?
What I’ve experienced so far from the fans of Marvel is how much they care. It’s their opinion that matters. So far my interactions with real Marvel fans, whether that be at Comic Cons or Twitter or on the street, there is nothing but love and excitement for this character and for this show. I genuinely believe that when the show comes out, that excitement and that love will be met with what we’ve produced.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Main image: Courtesy of Netflix
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