10 Non-White Actors Who Played Previously White Characters


Not too long ago on Toptenz, we hosted a list of similarly sensitive subject matter. The author didn’t mention how the representation of white people, especially in modern films, tends to be stereotypical and negative in many ways too.

In fact, white actors seem to have a monopoly on roles as racists, sadistic freaks, pedophiles, serial killers, manic-depressive suicidal outcasts, rapists, and greedy corrupt politicians. Yet, no one ever complains about this cinematic anti-white racism. This is also the case when entertainers of color portray white characters, or even worse, white historical figures. However, instead of getting any criticisms for the historical, racial, and cultural harassment in the aforementioned cases, we have to celebrate “diversity” at any cost. Here are ten such cases:

10. Clarke Duncan in Daredevil


Daredevil is one of the darkest and most violent superhero movies ever created and the way Mark Steven Johnson approached the original plot story very uniquely.

One of the most idiosyncratic aspects of the hero and narrative happens to be that Kingpin, one of the most feared and powerful crime lords in the Marvel Universe (See Marvel’s worst moments) and Daredevil’s main enemy, is portrayed by Clarke Duncan, a black actor. Duncan’s physique, identical with the comic anti-hero’s physical appearance, acts convincingly. The only visible difference is that his skin color and race does not fit the mold. Despite the obvious racial inaccuracy, most comic fans and film critics didn’t dare to pinpoint this drastic stretch from the strip, for fear of being accused of racism in the crazy era of political correctness we live in.

The Kingpin also made our list of  Top 10 Comic Book Villains.

9. Denzel Washington in The Manchurian Candidate


We all know that Denzel Washington is a great actor, but unfortunately The Manchurian Candidate is not one of his best movies. While he gives this film all his effort, he still can’t overcome an overall inconsistent, heavy-handed, and patently chaotic storyline. Even though the director of the film, Jonathan Demme, insisted that he did not intend to create a copycat remake of the original, nonetheless he did. The movie proved identical to the original classic masterpiece of 1962, given that Washington, an African-American actor, starred in the role originally portrayed by the legendary Frank Sinatra, a minority actor of his time as an Italian-American, but still a white male.

8. Lucy Liu in Charlie’s Angels


When Charlie’s Angels first came out in the mid-70s, the world already had underwent massive changes. As part of that change, on television, seeing three dynamic female detectives dominating, beating and capturing males stood out as extremely shocking for its time. The original trio included Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett (How high was Farrah’s hairstyle on our top 10 hairstyles list), and Jaclyn Smith in the leading roles, but even if you add Cheryl Ladd, Shelley Hack and Tanya Roberts who joined the series in later seasons, you will still have a hard time finding someone who looks like Lucy Liu. That happens of course because the original Charlie’s Angels were white females and Lucy Liu is an Asian woman. Nothing is wrong with that of course but facts are facts. If, one however, takes into account that Chinese, Japanese and Korean showbiz combined is nearly 100% Asian (since political madness doesn’t exist in any of those countries) and how Asians consist of over 60% of the global population while, in comparison, whites have declined to about 12%, then you have to wonder if it’s white people who need affirmative action nowadays.

7. Will Smith in I Am Legend


I happen to be a huge Will Smith fan. I also consider this specific movie one of the very best sci-fi films (Top 10 Time Travel Movies) of the previous decade. Yet, the fact remains that Will Smith is an African-American actor filling in the shoes of an iconic white actor, Charlton Heston in The Omega Man. In contrast to most of the modern “progressive” media, we will avoid any silly comparisons that involve extreme socio-political analogies since this film is simply a fictional scenario. In a fantasy world, a plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into monsters. The sole survivor and possible savior of mankind tries to find a cure, but in this instance, is black rather than white. In all fairness though, race would never have mattered in such case, as long as the hero gets the job done.

6. Morgan Freeman as Red in Shawshank Redemption


Morgan Freeman portrayed Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding in Frank Darabont’s critically acclaimed The Shawshank Redemption, based on Stephen King’s book Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. If you have read the book, then you’ve definitely noticed that Frank Darabont made a few changes. In fact, the most ridiculous change may be the fact that he gave the role of a pale-skinned Irishman with red hair, hence the nickname “Red,” to a black actor. In good faith, we can only guess there were no Irish or Irish-American actors available at the time.

5. Jason Momoa as Conan The Barbarian


This film was so bad, from the very beginning to the end that everything else about it pales in comparison. One of its most incongruous aspects is that it begins with Morgan Freeman’s narration, sounding extremely out of place as his comforting southern drawl epitomizes the total opposite of everything bloody, icy, wild and Cimmerian in the film. As a result, the intended wise and graven voice over comes like a post facto Mel Brooks-created self-parody. In addition, Jason Momoa, a man of Native Hawaiian, European and Native American descent, portrays a primitive white European man originally portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. But, almost unbelievably, to be perfectly honest that’s not even the worst part of this film; watching the film you clearly notice that Jason Momoa is an even worse actor than Arnie.

4. Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury in Ironman


If you are not a comic fan and ignore the comic version of Nick Fury, then you can enjoy Samuel Jackson’s performance because of Samuel’s undeniable acting skills and uniquely cool style. However, if you are a comic geek (Top 10 Movies That Will Make 2015 The Ultimate Year For Geekdom) like myself, and familiar with the original Nick Fury, then even someone as cool as Samuel Jackson can flop as a bad copy and poor imitation of the real tough guy. To begin with, Nick Fury is not bald like Samuel Jackson and his gray hair on the sides is one of his most famous traits and characteristics. The original Nick Fury is a World War II veteran and hero who took missions into Europe. Yet, listening to Samuel Jackson’s ghetto slang with the real Nick Fury in mind makes the entire production sound like an extremely theatrical farce. Another bad choice based on racial and cultural “progress.”

3. Idris Elba as Heimdall in Thor and Thor: The Dark World


Here, we don’t deal with a fictional character simply based on an American film or comic, but a mythological figure based on the god Heimdall of Norse mythology. Kenneth Branagh and Alan Taylor, the two directors of the respective films, attempted – despite the given mythological facts – to promote diversity and multiculturalism. Despite the films’ inaccuracies, liable to offend any thinking Scandinavian person, even worse, the directors gave the role of Heimdall (who’s white in the Marvel Comics universe as well) to Idris Elba. Conversely, let’s just imagine the African-American community and “progressive” media’s rage, if for example, a blonde and blue-eyed Brad Pitt portrayed a Nubian God like Shango.

2. Peter Mensah as Oenomaus in Spartacus (TV series)


This entry is yet another bright example of why people of color should cease portraying white historical figures; it’s historical distortion. Oenomaus was a Gallic gladiator, and one of the rebellious slaves who fought next to the great Spartacus in the Third Servile War against the Romans. The Gauls were a historic European tribe and thus white; an undeniable historical fact that makes the chances of Oenomaus looking like Peter Mensah simply impossible. Even worse, Romans owned African slaves as well, so if the director wanted to add some racial diversity in the series could have done so without modifying history to this extent. Furthermore, why a TV series based on European history and set in Europe, needs racial diversity is mind-boggling. However, thank God in Bollywood and Nollywood, Indians and Nigerians are wise enough not to mix art with race and keep it 100% local.

1. Dwayne Johnson as Hercules (2014)


In a fair and sane world, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Culture of Greece should ban this movie and boycott it. Of course, this will not happen. The Rock, an extremely charismatic, sympathetic, and cool individual who would probably also make a great friend, looks nothing like Hercules. He’s not white, he’s not Greek, and he’s a bad actor too. It’s really no big deal when American directors, authors, and producers distort their own contemporary history, comic books, and original movies, but insulting another nation’s history and culture just because a homophobic misogynist director felt like it, is simply wrong. Greece gave the world democracy, never participated in colonization and slavery, suffered 400 years of occupation and slavery from non-white Muslims, experienced genocide, and had their national treasures stolen. Having its history and mythology distorted almost unrecognizably from the American movie industry is unacceptable.

The writer of this list takes FULL responsibility for every FACT that is included in his list. He pitched the idea requesting a “response-list” to the original list and since Toptenz.net is a democratic and free forum for writers, it offered the opportunity to him. Toptenz.net is not condoning any racists viewpoints and we hope the list wasn’t taken in that regard.

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  1. I’m ok with this as long as you also have Poster an article about factual characters of people of color that have been played by Caucasians, where they have even gone as far to darken the skin with paint, not movie characters but factual events in history.

  2. This article would be much more interesting if you would have collaborated in the true essence that there still are not enough Black Superhero movies coming from Hollywood and around the world. Where are the Asian, Hispanic superheroes???

  3. Black washing movies an tv shows and plays that was white an yellow and replacing white an yellow with black people like Uncle Buck, Men in Black, Steel Magnolias, Marvel & DC Super hero’s an Villains non hero’s and Villains, The Karate Kid, Once Upon a Time, For Honor ( Video Game ) Annie, Princess and the Frog, That Darn Cat, Death at a Funeral, Shawshank Redemption, Django Unchained, Cinderella 1997, The Wiz, Rum Punch Novel Adventures in Wonderland, Ben Hur, The Taking of Pelham 123, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Wild Wild West, The Manchurian Candidate, Dr Do Little, Death Note live action series on NetFlix, Afro Samurai, Sailor Moon TV [unaired North America]

    The Bonfire of the Vanities, After the Fall, This England: The Histories, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Skyfall, Casino Royale, A Knight in Camelot, Robin Hood Who Shot the Sheriff, Merlin, Max Payne movie, King Lear, Hamilton Lin-Manuel Miranda, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again, Phantom of the Opera Norman Lewis, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar named desire, I Am Legend, Spartacus Peter Mensah, Baywatch, Race to Witch Mountain, Walking Tall, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Gridiron Gang, Hercules, Still StarCrossed
    The Dark Tower

  4. A large chunk of this list isn’t historical it’s “comic book history or fictional history”. I don’t give any two chickens who plays any role on screen tbh..I’ve read both extremes of this issue…I without any single doubt love and admire EVERY single “minority” on this list. They are incredible performers and truly I’m just tired of seeing these types of “articles”

  5. Folks need to grow a thicker grade of skin. All these ultra-thin-skinned snowflakes and their double standards grow incredibly tiresome. Get a life! You can start by recognizing obama for the race pimp that he is, and stop playing into his obvious plan to set race relations back 65 or more years.

  6. Darwinian Arminian on

    Good list; But there was one selection I was surprised you missed. It also happens to be happens to be a twofer, with the same black actor stepping into two roles that had previously been caucasians: Laurence Fishburne as Perry White in “The Man of Steel” (a fictional character, but one that had always been a white guy) and Jack Crawford from TV’s “Hannibal” (portrayed in previous films by Dennis Farina, Scott Glenn, and Harvey Keitel; All white as was John Douglas, the real-life FBI profiler that the character was modeled after).

  7. It’s pathetic how many angry and fascist comments this list got from so called “anti-racists.” To me it seems like nowadays white people can’t even POINT out something, let alone be entitled to their opinion (something black folks are doing on daily basis). The list wasn’t racist AT ALL. It just recorded all those white roles that were replaced by non-white actors and it gets fire for that. I pray for Donald Trump to get elected, so this silent genocide towards white people ends in this country.

    PS. A Norse God played by an African and Hercules being portrayed by a Polynesian/African-American, is almost a blasphemy. I wonder how the same “anti-racists” would feel if an African like Nelson Mandela was portrayed by a Scandinavian or Greek actor with some black color on him and an Afro wig ha ha ha!

  8. “reverse racism” isn’t a thing. Although this list is trying to pretend that it is, basically, without getting in trouble by actually saying so right out loud.

    BIGGEST POINT: The actors above are not white-facing it, trying to pretend they are white. They are playing roles in which it was decided by the author or director to imagine the characters actually WERE non-white, and cast a non-white actor accordingly. What is getting really really old, is having some old white dude put on “yellow” make up, and pretend to be the wise old Asian. In the other cases, it’s robbing stories of what few minority heroes and heroines they have, and re-casting them as white, and ignoring the cultural basis of the characters sometimes, to boot.

    Hollywood is ALREADY so overwhelmingly white in its central and major supporting roles, that whitewashing ANY role is a tragedy. Once the roles in major movies accurately reflect modern demographic and gender realities as a matter of course – and once social power is more fairly distributed – THEN maybe talk about whether it’s no big deal for white actors to get to play the major roles that used to be other demographics. Maybe. But that time is not now.

    • And by the way, I used the term above, because I do think “yellow-face” is just as demeaning and racist a performance as “black-face.”

      • What is getting really really old, is having some old white dude put on “yellow” make up, and pretend to be the wise old Asian. In the other cases, it’s robbing stories of what few minority heroes and heroines they have, and re-casting them as white, and ignoring the cultural basis of the characters sometimes, to boot.

        Except that if an Asian male actor was cast as any of these wise old mentors, you’d be complaining that this is stereotyping and typecasting and that the American movie industry can’t give Asian men any meaningful modern roles but these. Which should it be?

        Personally, I think that it was great that Tilda Swinton (and before her, Sir Ralph Richardson) was cast as the Ancient One in the 1978 and 2016 Doctor Strange
        movies, respectively; it shows that anybody could become this being if circumstances warranted it and if they were chosen for it/came to want to be it. That the Ancient One’s a woman in this movie makes it even more amazing.

  9. You are a dumbass…..and by the way while you were talking about Idris Elba as Hiendall and how African Americans wouldn’t like a white actor playing a Nubian God, Horus and Set and all of the Gods of Egypt were Nubian, but have you seen the actors playing the movie though?!

  10. “Greece … never participated in colonization and slavery”

    What twat wrote this? Obviously never heard of Alexander The Great, or that slavery was part of Greek society.

  11. Darian Charles Alexander Hart on

    You started the article by insinuating white people were the only ones allowed to be sadistic, greedy, and corrupt… Then led with Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin. Are you actually that obtuse?

  12. Björn Hellström on

    In view of all the non-white characters that has been played by white actors this kind of writing is just racist bullshit. Racism is real just as well as white privilege.

    • Hahaha… What a douche you are. “All the non-white characters played by white actors.” Are you a time traveler from the 1950s? That isn’t common now. Rather, the inverse is true now.

  13. Fact and emphasis correction: The Greeks did colonise islands in the Aegean and Mediterranean and they did have slavery in their city states both foreign slaves and enslaved fellow Greeks eg Sparta

  14. Wow, at first I thought this article was going to show how people of colour have portrayed characters that were originally white and pulled it off well. What I got instead was the drivel of someone who was obviously racist.
    I hate this politically correct world as much as the next dude, but you take the cake my good sir. You are nothing but a bigot hiding behind a screen.

  15. Putting aside the quality of the writing, the underlying theme, and the completely ridiculous nature of the content itself, there are several factual inaccuracies here that completely negate any sort of point the author may have had.

    • Josh Goldman on

      . . . I hate that I clicked on this, I hate that I read it, and I hate that I cared enough about it to comment on it. People like me are the reason these articles show up in my feed, and I hate that too. I’m the reason bad movies continue to get made. What am I doing with my life?

      • I’m the reason bad movies continue to get made.

        Goldman, get over yourself, and stick to foreign films and domestic (American) independent film if you feel so unentertained.

  16. What did I just read?! Can I get the last 5 minutes of my life back? This piece is bigoted, ignorant and full of white whine.

  17. Why does the term “White fragility” come to mind? By the way, if you were a true comic book geek you’d know that Nick Fury in the Ultimates universe is, in fact, a black bold guy who was, brace yourself, designed after Samuel Jackson!

    • When was Fury Black? Was never a big S.H.I.E.L.D. fan, but I only remember him being a white guy.

      • Delany Henson on

        i think it was in the ultimate universe. his character design was SPECIFICALLY based on sam jackson, so the fact that its him playing the role is perfect

        • Most likely, the people who created the black Nick Fury did it because they were embarrassed by the white Nick Fury (David Hasselhof) in the 1996 TV movie.

  18. Really? this is asinine and ignorant. You do realize these are
    FICTITIOUS characters right? The complaint people of color have is that cinema will chose someone latino, mixed, and or other race to depict ACTUAL people. This is dumb, and white privilege race baiting.

    • All heroes and villains can’t be white…other people in Holly or Bwood need jobs as well…

  19. Well you make ths sound like its bad most of it is fiction how about the exodus gods and kings all major characters are white thats a historical inaccuracy and none of the major characters are of arab or nubian descent you wanna talk race cool put a list of white actors that took non white roles suck it fella you the one who put this stupid list here

  20. First of all this whole list is just racist. It’s one thing to question casting for historical accuracy- it’s another to completely dehumanise a performance simply because of the actors skin color.
    And the whole non white Muslims crack was unnecessary and inaccurate( since you happens to be so concerned about that)
    Who the hell cares if a character is played by a different ethnicity than in the original when their going to reboot it? In fact that’s not even the problem- because I’m sure that it it was reversed, like how there are so many movies, even this time period where we have to sit and watch a completely unbelievable undiverse all white cast blaying people who are considered a minority, this list would not even exist.
    I’m not even angry anymore I just fine this white supremacy crap sick and sad.

  21. umm last time I check Ultimate Nick Fury is black…Sam Jackson isn’t playing the original Nick Fury he’s playing the ultimate one

  22. I have to agree with a few of these entries.
    Just for a moment imagine the reactions of black people had a white man played the role of a character meant to be black.
    The few I agree with is a tie for #1 Nick Fury. The comic book has a very deep meaningful background about NF and he’s not a black man.
    Heimdall in Thor. I mean really? Asgard is a Nordick Legend,need I elaborate?
    #2 The Manchurian Candidate. This one should speak for itself.
    #3 Shawshank Redemption. Just wow on this one. It is an insult to Irish people…oh that’s right,white people have no right to be offended.
    I can’t speak for the others but these in my list are ones that bother me.

  23. Christopher Washington on

    How about the historical portrayal of an Arab as an Anglo Saxon? Jesus, the entire cast of Noah, etc.

    Look, you can’t exactly be pissed when white culture went out of the way to make sure that both our part and our future is devoid of color. I am, of course, referring to “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons”. In the Jetsons, there were more green and blue people than Brown.

    • EXACTLY TKO. This writer seems as if he has just received literature from David Duke in his attempt to keep the supposed white race pure…

  24. Adrien Williams on

    How about the 100 white who played non-white characters? MAYANS on Dr. WHO and such.

    • EXACTLY…This writer is so delusional as if white movie producers have not stolen demographics origins of non white people from history and not the white washed epics that have been created…

  25. i am surprised to read the following remarks
    “Greece gave the world democracy, never participated in colonization and slavery,
    suffered 400 years of occupation and slavery from non-white Muslim”
    Is it not enough to say that Greece suffered 400 hundred years of occupation by not-white……why you have to mention non-white Muslims, will it be OK if white Muslims, or non-white Christians ruled the Greece. Further Muslims ruled Spain for 600 years but not Greece for 400 years, please correct your history record.
    I am sorry to say that i would hate to mention Christians/Muslim in this context but i wanted to bring to the notice of the writer.

    • Pretty sure he specified non-white Muslims because there were also white Muslims doing quite a bit of conquering at some point.

  26. You forgot Will Smith in Men in Black. In the original comic book that the movies are based on his character is white.

  27. Your comment is ridiculous. If something is historically based then the people in it should look like the people of the time and if a character looks a certain way you should do your best to find suitable actors. Surely you must agree the morgan freeman as “red” instance is a bit much although he did perform well in the film

  28. Relax Elijah Muhammad. You sound like the typical black racist who will crucify anyone who will harass black culture and history, but when your folks do exactly the same you are all about artistic liberties. Sit in the corner and be quiet.

  29. Sam Jackson is portraying the Ultimate Universe version of Nick Fury. (Who was actually based on Jackson himself)

  30. What. The. F*ck.
    Artistic liberties, anyone? Who Cares if the rock plays Hercules? No one saw it. Nick fury? Jackson is the most hardass actor we really have nowadays. Idris Elba. Will Smith. Denzel Washington. These are the people in OUR time that best represent the characters or personalities portrayed in these forms of media. Instead of pointing out that it wasn’t how the original author portrayed them, why not make a list of WHY you think they’re so inadequate. This whole list is just ridiculous.
    I’ve never even posted a comment on this site until now. Take your responsibility as the author how you will, but when even you say that it’s all just to promote open relations between races, but somehow it’s all about political correctness…. Just shut up. It could be about the most competent person to show the characters true personality that matters, not the color of their skin.

    I mean… Seriously?

    • This author wrote this list in response to some OTHER ponce who thought it would further their shares/likes to say that it was terrible of a bunch of white actors to play non-white roles. What this author is saying here is that this goes both ways, non-white people playing white people, white people playing non-white people. It goes both ways and this is true.

  31. Might I just throw in Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leitner and Will Smith (again) in Wild Wild West? These two were actually the first actors I was thinking of when I read the title.

    • Arthur Wilton on

      Cultural apartheid, like all apartheid, is morally wrong. Are we to tell the great American ballet dancer, Misty Copeland, that she should not dance a European dance to European music simply because she is black?

      The best person for a job is the best person for the job, regardless of skin color or ethnic background. The Rock is a great Hercules.

      • Yeah sure , imagine 2 seconds Malcolm X played by Kevin Costner, it would be the endless whining, but Elba ,a black man playing a viking divinity is just fine….

        • You don’t see a difference between a fictional character and an actual human who lived and breather and was photographed and recorded?