‘Nightwing’ Director Asks a Surprisingly Good Question About Casting

Although the future of the DC Cinematic Universe always feels like it’s somewhat up in the air, Warner Bros. appears to be moving forward with a Nightwing movie. The film, which will follow Dick Grayson, the first Robin to fight alongside the Dark Knight, is set to be directed by Lego Batman’s Chris McKay, and he’s asking some interesting questions about what fans want from the acrobatic hero.

On Thursday night, McKay tweeted a poll asking fans what the most important quality they would look for in an actor if they were casting somebody to play Nightwing. In just over 12 hours, more than 60,000 people voted in the poll.

The options were “recognizable movie star,” “a badass martial artist,” Romani,” and “vulnerable, emotional.” At the time this article was published, “a badass martial artist” was solidly in first place, with almost half of the total votes. “Vulnerable, emotional” was in second place.

That’s a good sign, as is seems to suggest that fans (and McKay) are more interested in focusing on Nightwing’s acrobatics and emotional depth rather than just star power. However, casual fans might be a little confused by the presence of the third option, “Romani.” Although Dick was a generic, unspecified and presumably “white” hero in his debut in 1940’s Detective Comics #38. However, Gotham Knights #20 in 2001, writer Devin Grayson revealed that Nightwing was part Romani, a nomadic, often-persecuted ethnic group in central Europe.

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“I didn’t change his ethnicity from one thing to another, he had no ethnicity,” Grayson explained in a book about the history of the character. “The truth is, we never talk about that stuff, we just make assumptions, and in this case those assumptions are based on a really boring, banal, and in many ways harmful representation of America.”

This aspect of Nightwing’s character has never made it to the screen before, and it’s not usually not depicted or addressed in the comics, but Batman writer Tom King confirmed that his Romani roots were canon, writing on Twitter that, “yes, that heritage is essential to who Dick is” in 2015.

So, we’ll see if Warner Bros. ends up casting an actor of Romani descent to play Nightwing, rather than whitewashing this admittedly unpublicized aspect of his character. At the very least, though, it’s great to see that McKay’s asking the question.

However, that’s not all progressive DC fans want from Nightwing. One reply to the poll suggested a fifth quality to look for in a potential actor:

“His ability to act alongside a disabled actress?” Twitter user @dinahsoracle replied. “Or am i being /too/ hopeful. :p”

If the “oracle” in the Twitter handle didn’t tip you off, the question was an allusion to Barbara Gordon’s identity as Oracle, her superhero identity during the decades she spent in a wheelchair. The “New 52” reboot changed DC canon, making it so that Barbara was no longer paralyzed, but there are many fans who miss the representation Oracle offered as a disabled hero. And, there are fans who miss Oracle and Nightwing’s romantic relationship. Could any of that be in store for Nightwing?

“I love you so much,” is all McKay responded.

Dick and Barbara. 

The Nightwing movie does not have a release date yet, though there is reportedly a big update on its status coming later this month.

Media via DC, DC Comics

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