Shortly after The Lego Batman Movie director Chris McKay expressed an interest in directing a live-action superhero movie, DC announced that McKay would helm DCEU’s Nightwing. When that announcement hit the internet, comic book fans began tweeting out their opinions in droves. Fans want a lot for Nightwing, and many of their hopes are contradictory.
Nightwing, the consensus seems to be, should be played by a person of color, and most fans are hoping for an Asian actor like The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun. Though there is no precedent for Dick Grayson being Asian in the comics, he does spend ten years of his comics tenure identifying as half-Romani.
McKay hasn’t commented on Dick Grayson’s ethnicity in the DCEU, but he recently said that Grayson differs from Bruce Wayne because of their dissimilar backgrounds and socioeconomic status. “Bruce Wayne in my mind came from privilege,” McKay on a recent podcast, “and I think that’s why he’s more dour and angry. […] Dick Grayson came from a circus family. Essentially people who aren’t rich and they are self-made, […] people who live hand-to-mouth and that’s something that informs him and his attitude.”
McKay has made his intentions for Dick Grayson’s values clear, but he hasn’t addressed the debate that’s taken Twitter by storm since the Nightwing film was announced. Namely, should the actor cast as Dick Grayson be chosen for his ethnicity, in addition to his skills?
Dick Grayson’s ethnicity is an interesting sticking point in conversations about DC canon. As far as comics and animation go, he’s never been anything other than Romani, or in less politically correct terms, a “gypsy” — and yet the fan-casting concept of Grayson being an Asian-American manpersists.
Fans who feel connected to Grayson’s Romani heritage accused DC Comics of whitewashing the character because he lost all mention of his ethnicity after Flashpoint.
Both DC fans who want to see Grayson played by an Asian actor, or a Romani actor, use language similar to director McKay’s when describing how groundbreaking the film could be. Grayson, as McKay and many fans see him, is a rare “everyman” character in Gotham, a city full of exceptionally strange and/or unrealistically wealthy people. For a superhero film to center on the “boy next door” who also happens to be played by an actor of color feels like a culturally significant move for DC Entertainment.
There is no set date for Nightwing, and none of the cast has been announced yet.