As of December 4th, Benedict Cumberbatch has been officially cast as Stephen Strange in the upcoming Doctor Strange film, brought to us by Marvel Studios. I, and many others, were let down by this casting choice when there were so many other great actors out there, ones with an equal amount of skill and gravitas, who could have brought a touch of diversity to the Marvel films. Traditionally portrayed in the comics as a man of color born in America, trained in the mystical arts by the Ancient One in the Far East, Marvel instead chose to cast an upper-class, white British man in the role. An understandable choice, given Cumberbatch's popularity and talent, but a disappointing one nonetheless for those who were hoping that Marvel would take the opportunity to make a riskier but more diverse choice. While I myself still fully intend upon watching, and likely enjoying, the movie, let's take a moment to review what could have been.
5. Sendhil Ramamurthy
Ramamurthy is most well-known for his substantial role on Heroes, a role which was intended for someone much older until his audition tape blew the producers away and the part was rewritten. He is currently acting in the CW's Beauty and the Beast, but I'm sure he could have found time to portray our Doctor Strange! Anyone who's seen Ramamurthy act knows he definitely has the skill and the acting range to carry a film, and he's unknown enough not to be associated with any other roles.
4. Oded Fehr
Having worked in the Mummy franchise, as well as in quite a few Resident: Evil films and on NCIS, Oded Fehr is no stranger to physical roles that require a careful combination of power and morality, two themes near and dear to Doctor Strange. One could easily imagine him traveling East to learn how to control his powers, fighting both the elements and his own conscience. And even easier is imagining him snarling at both friend and foe alike, joining the side of the superheroes with obvious reluctance.
3. Godfrey Gao
Born in Taiwan, Godfrey Gao is not particularly well-known in the United States (yet!), but you may recall seeing him in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones as Magnus Bane, the High Warlock of Brooklyn. This means he already has experience in playing powerful sorcerers -- all he needs now is a dash of white hair on either temple and the requisite costume. At only thirty and not currently, to the best of my knowledge, involved in any other projects, Godfrey could have played Doctor Strange for years to come!
2. Ruth Negga
All right, so she's an actress not an actor, if you want to be technical -- but she still would have been amazing choice for the role, as well as a surprising one. Casting a woman as a popular male superhero is apparently a risk Marvel is only willing to take in its comic books as of late. Yes, she already has a role on Marvel's Agents of Shield as Raina, but her character's origins are mysterious at best, and what's most strongly known is that Raina possesses an interest in all that's alien and/or magical. What a great plot twist it could have been: Doctor Strange originating on the tie-in TV show. She could have been easily woven into the movies, connecting the TV show and the film franchise. Not to mention, she's a fantastic actress. For someone so small in stature, she has a way of sending chills down your spine and conveying a sense of real power with every word.
1. Pedro Pascal
Ah, yes, most everyone's favorite choice. In every fan-casting I've seen for Doctor Strange, Pedro Pascal has almost always been on the list. Handsome and talented, well-known for his role as the ill-fated Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones (as well as Graceland and The Mentalist), Pascal would have been a marvelous choice for Doctor Strange; just popular enough to catch the public eye, but also unknown enough that he could be reborn into this role as Chris Hemsworth was into the role of Thor. Pascal seemed like the easy choice for the role and I am certainly not the only one who was surprised that Marvel didn't leap at the chance to cast him. Who knows? Perhaps they tried. Perhaps he turned down the role so to star on the show Narcos, out on Netflix next year.
Regardless, Marvel definitely missed an opportunity here to diversify their cast, not only in terms of appearance, but in terms of popularity -- instead, they chose to follow their recent trend of safely casting well-known white actors into their roles rather than take a risk. Again, it's understandable and Cumberbatch is by no means a bad choice.. but I can't help but look at Pedro Pascal again and feel as if I'm missing out on something great.