character design

Inktober Redux 2022 - Day ?! - Toshiro Mifune, Star Wars

Inktober Redux 2022

Day ?! - ok , I fell behind, but we’re back with this series which I think I’m going to continue to push forward either way as I’ve been really enjoying it. Having said that…STAR WARS 1977…It’s well known that George Lucas was a fan of Akira Kurosawa’s work and fashioned the SW universe and characters off many of Kurosawa’s films, especially 1958’s The Hidden Fortress, which starred Toshiro Mifune as General Makabe Rokurōta. When casting Star Wars, Lucas approached Mifune and offered him the role of Jedi Master Obi Wan Kenobi. Mifune turned down the role as he felt the it would lessen his legacy and pride in his Samurai roles and films, since many of the sci fi films of the era looked cheap in production value. Kudos to Lucas for thinking outside the box in casting a major role with a person of color, and while understanding the reasons Mifune declined, imagine the impact and legacy of an actor of Mifune’s stature could have had for not just Japanese but Asian children in general in such an iconic role.


Inktober Redux 2022 - Day 17 - Dorothy Dandridge, Cleopatra

Day 17 - “Cleopatra” - Elizabeth Taylor starred in the epic, grandiose and vastly expensive 1963 historical film. Cleopatra, was not Egyptian, but Macedonian, so not black, but definitely a person of color. Scholars identify Cleopatra as having been essentially of Greek ancestry with Persian and Sogdian Iranian ancestry, based on the fact that her Macedonian Greek family (the Ptolemaic dynasty) had intermarried with the Seleucid dynasty. The film originally was to be directed by Rouben Mamoulian. His initial choice to play Cleopatra was Dorothy Dandridge, whom he had worked with on Porgy and Bess. Dandridge replied, "You won't have the guts to go through with this... They are going to talk you out of it.” The role ended up going to Taylor and Mammoulian was replaced by Mankiewicz after filming started. The WHAT IF here would have been fascinating if Mammoulian did have the guts to cast Dandridge and what the impact would have been if this film had been released with Dandridge in the leading role playing opposite Richard Burton’s Marc Antony and Rex Harris Julius Caesar. It went not to become a box office smash though not able to recuperate its production costs and earned 4 of the 5 Oscars it was nominated for. The film, for all it decadent faults, still continues to warrant film discussion and influence fashion to this day.


Inktober Redux 2022 - Day 14 - Sibongile Mlambo, Chataya

Day 14 - “Game of Thrones” Often times, backlash against casting POC in fictional roles comes with the ridiculous argument of “that’s not true to the :::insert original media here::: However, where’s the same wringing of hands from those same folks when the opposite is true? That’s when that argument starts to show it’s girdle and you realize that this is not about notions of keeping “purity” (again an odd world choice) with the original source material, especially concerning fiction. Case in point, the books from A Song of Ice and Fire featured a character names Chataya. Chataya is the owner of an upscale whorehouse in King's Landing. Chataya described int he books is a tall, black woman with sandalwood eyes, from the Summer Isles. She ends up being a confident and spy to both Tyrion and Varys becoming integral to the plot involving Robert Baratheon’s numerous bastards. In the show her role was remixed to have Peter Baelish run the brothels in KIng’s Landing and her role was cut and then replaced with a new character name Ros (played by Esme Bianco). WHAT IF show runners had decided to cast the role? Sibongile Mlambo a Zimbabwean actress would have been perfect for the role as the commanding beauty with deep knowledge of the court and its secrets. She’s best known for starring in Netflix’s Lost in Space, and the Starz historical adventure series Black Sails.


Inktober Redux 2022 - Day 12 - James Shigeta, A Majority of One

Day 12 - “A Majority of One” - 1961 is a romantic comedy about a Japanese businessman and widower (Alec Guinness), and a Brooklyn widow played by Rosalind Russell, who share a bond over lives, their families, and their faiths, which develops into a romance. Alec played the role in yellow-face with latex prosthetics to appear Japanese. George Takei, recalls that while playing a minor role in A Majority of One, he was "shocked" at the "grotesquely offensive" latex make-up applied to Guinness's eyes. The film is still considered a warm film filled with humor and a message of tolerance and compassion that remains relevant today. WHAT IF the role were handled by James Shigeta? Shigeta was an American actor noted for his roles in The Crimson Kimono (1959), Flower Drum Song (1961), Bridge to the Sun (1961), Die Hard (1988), and Mulan (1998). He even won the Golden Globe Award in 1960 for Most Promising Newcomer. Shigeta often played romantic male lead roles, which were almost nonexistent for an actor of Asian descent during his time. It seems like a shoe in that he could have easily been cast in a role in a film that dealt with inter racial marriage and this film would probably be held in higher light in cinematic history.


Inktober Redux 2022 - Day 10 - Idris Elba, 007

Day 10 - whoops, a day late! - “007” - Idris Elba has gone on the record to say that he’d wouldn’t take on the role of Bond now due to several factors, one of them being his age and the commitment needed to tackle the role which could take 10 - 12 years of his life. Having said that, if there was a role that would benefit conversations about diversifying casting, the idea of him being the first Black Bond would be a strong argument for more. While producers figure out who will carry the mantle of 007 after Craig (perhaps a woman?), here’s to the WHAT IF scenario if 15-20 years ago filmmakers reached out to one absolute badass of an actor and cool icons of modern cinema to take on the Walther PPK and tuxedo.


Inktober Redux 2022 - Day 09 - Irrfan Khan, Captain Nemo

Day 9 - “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, Jules Verne's 1870 classic has had about dozens of film and tv adaptations over the years. The character of Captain Nemo, identified as an Indian name Prince Dakkar, was also featured in Verne’s other classic, The Mysterious Island (1875). Nemo enters his nautical exile after his homeland is conquered and family slaughtered by a powerful imperialist nation (England). Most of the adaptations where the character was in a prominent role were usually portrayed by a non Indian actor; most famously by James Mason in Disney’s classic version. Disney+ is currently in the works of a television show focusing on the origin story of Nemo, to be played by Shazad Latif. My WHAT IF today would have been a big budget spectacle/character study possibly directed by Denis Villeneuve with the late but great Irrfan Khan, from films The Warrior, Life of Pi and Slumdog Millionaire, as the undersea scientist/explorer.


Inktober Redux 2022 - Day 08 - Bruce Lee, Ah Sahm, Kung Gu

Day 8 - “Kung Fu,” 1972. In 1971, Bruce Lee pitched a concept to WB and Paramount for a television series titled Ah Sahm, about a martial artist roaming the American Old West. Lee’s widow Linda stated WB retooled and renamed the concept into Kung Fu. Lee himself auditioned for the role, though according to the show runners, Lee was not cast in the lead role in part because of his ethnicity, but more so because of his accent. The role eventually went to David Carradine. What If Lee had been cast in the role? The show itself may have taken a different path than the released series. Imagine Lee able to spread his message within the structure of the show. Warrior, an American martial arts crime drama, premiered on April 5, 2019 based on an original concept and treatment by Bruce Lee; executive-produced by his daughter, Shannon Lee. Check it out, it’s damn good.


Inktober Redux 2022 - Day 04 - Lena Horne, Julie La Verne - Show Boat

Day 4 - “Show Boat,” 1951: Ava Gardner played a mixed-race character who was passing as white, making her marriage to a white man both dangerous and illegal in 1887. What if Lena Horne, originally considered, but ultimately rejected due to studio execs discomfort over interracial love scenes, had starred? “Show Boat” which was the first musical to deal with issues of racial discrimination and mixed marriages may have had a bigger social impact if the part had been handled by Horne. Funnily enough, Horne, played the same character in a brief segment of the play featured in the 1946 Jerome Kern biopic “Till the Clouds Roll By.”


Inktober Redux 2022 - Day 05 - Maria Felix, Maria Morales - Fiesta

Day 5 - Latinos come in all shades from white to black to brunettes to redheads, but often times in Hollywood those roles were given to non latino actors, with a few exceptions. The movie Fiesta, 1947, focuses on Mario Morales (Montalbán), a bullfighter who wants to be a composer, and his twin sister, Maria Morales, played by Esther Williams, who wants to be a bullfighter even though she is a woman. WHAT IF, Maria Felix (1914-2002), known as La Doña and considered one of the greatest actresses pf the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, played Maria opposite Montalban? Immensely popular in Mexico and Europe, Hollywood constantly reached out to offer roles in Hollywood, but as she herself said: “They only give me huehuenche (Indian) roles.”


Inktober Redux 2022 - Day 07 - Rinko Kikuchi, Major Motoko Kusanagi

Day 7 - Ghost in the Shell, 2017 - Scarlett Johansson was cast in the role of Major Motoko Kusanagi. The perception stateside was negative compared to oversees as according to Justin Charity of Ringer, "your average Japanese citizen's outlook on diversity is much less influenced by pluralism than the outlooks of many Asian Americans, who live in a country where popular culture rarely represents them well, if at all. Hence, many Japanese Americans may find Johansson's casting in a Ghost in the Shell movie distressing, while native Japanese observers make nothing of it.” Casting for this film needed a more nuanced approach and understanding of current audiences. The film was visually stunning, but a dud in its reception, whether or not you thought the storyline in of itself was successful. WHAT IF the filmmakers instead took the opportunity and cast a Japanese actress in the lead? Instead of Johansen, Rinko Kikuchi had been cast as Major? Kikuchi had some pretty good bona fides in action/sci fi with projects such as Pacific Rim, 47 Ronin and Tokyo Vice. Maybe the film would have had a warmer reception.


Inktober Redux 2022 - Day 03 - Ricardo Montalban, Mike Vargas

Day 3, “Touch of Evil”, 1958. Charlton Heston played a Mexican character in Welles seminal film noir. While many chide Heston for playing a Mexican with bronze makeup and mustache, the character was changed in production from white to latino in order to deal with some of the political and racial issues seen at the California/Mexican Border. WHAT IF the role had been handled by an equally imposing presence of Heston’s stature? Imagine Ricardo Montalban as Mike Vargas, going toe to toe with Orson Welles' Quinlan. It could have been sensational. Here’s Montalban if he were in the famous 'You won't have any trouble with me," scene.


Inktober Redux 2022 - Day 02 - Anna May Wong, Han Suyin

Day 2, Wong Liu-tsong, professionally known as Anna May Wong (1909-1951), was born in LA and considered the first Chinese American Hollywood movie star. Though popular and a fashion icon, Hollywood thought she was ‘Too Chinese to play Chinese’. She was often cast in dragon lady and butterfly roles in the states. WHAT IF she was cast as Dr. Han Suyin, the romantic lead in Love is a Many Splendored Thing, 1955? The original film, Dr. Suyin, played by Jennifer Jones in yellowface, encounters prejudice from family and Hong Kong society with her relationship with an American journalist, played by William Holden.


Inktober Redux 2022 - Day 01 - James Edwards, Othello

Inktober 2022 is back, but wanted to come in with a different spin. With all the perplexing and backwards backlash against casting people of color in popular fantasy genres like House of the Dragon, The Rings of Power and The Little Mermaid, I’m turning back the clock and revisiting/recasting roles that were BIPOC in their creation or influence played by white actors and popular cinematic characters that could have been portrayed by an equally accomplished person of color. A sort of WHAT IF? What if that role had been played by a person of color of that generation?

Day 1, Shakespeare’s Othello, infamously played by Laurence Oliver in the 1965 version, completely covered in ridiculously coal black makeup. What if James Edwards (1918-1970), actor from The Manchurian, The Killing and Patton had played him, in say, an Orson Welles version of the film? Imagine how having a seminal film like this in circulation for over 50 years could have done to a whole generation of kids and their interest in the arts, writing and literature and the stage? Took a little flavor from both the '51 and the '65 films.


Dino Heads

some doodles and dino explorations during lunch.

Dino Heads Sketches