The casting announcement for a new historical drama set during World War II is being met with accusations of whitewashing.
On Tuesday, Deadline reported actor Zach McGowan has been cast as Medal for Merit and Purple Heart recipient Benehakaka “Ben” Kanahele in director Gabriel Robertson’s film Ni’ihau. The film is set during World War II and tells the true story of the Ni’ihau Incident, which occurred after Native Hawaiian Ben Kanahele rescued Shigenori Nishikaichi, a Japanese Navy pilot who participated in the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The 36-year-old McGowan will play Kanahele who, along with his wife Kealoha “Ella” Kanahele, ultimately killed Nishikaichi after the pilot’s involvement in Pearl Harbor became known. Ben Kanahele, who was shot by Nishikaichi, was later hailed by the U.S. government as a hero for helping stop the attack on Hawaii. McGowan’s casting comes at a time when Hollywood has increasingly come under fire for whitewashing the roles of Asian Americans and other Americans of color. Social media users took to Twitter shortly after McGowan’s casting was announced to voice their displeasure.