Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Death Note Producer Responds To Whitewashing Criticism

Live-action adaptations of classic animated movies and television series are often hit with pre-release criticism, and the Netflix movie Death Note is no exception.

Following the debut of the trailer, fans erupted in dissatisfaction, claiming director Adam Wingard had whitewashed the original Japanese story. Death Note producer Roy Lee opened up to Buzzfeed News and responded to the recent backlash.

Death Note took center stage in March, when the initial glimpse at the movie was released via Twitter. Adapted from the massively popular manga series of the same name, written by Tsugumi Ohba with illustrations from Takeshi Obata, the Netflix take features Nat Wolff (Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars) as the protagonist. Many criticized the decision to cast Wolff, a white actor, as the lead, who is Japanese in the source text.

Additionally, others found fault with the characters' new anglicized names. In the Netflix film, Light Yagami is now Light Turner, Misa Amane is renamed Mia Sutton (played by Margaret Qualley), and Soichiro Yagami is transformed into James Turner (played by Shea Whigham).

Speaking to Buzzfeed, Lee revealed that despite all his, he doesn't believe Death Note is an example of whitewashing. He stated that the controversy surrounding his latest project has been unlike any response he's heard before.

"I've been involved in many adaptations of content from all over the world, and this is the first time that I've been seeing negative press," Lee said. "I can understand the criticism... if our version of Death Note was set in Japan and [featured] characters that were Japanese-named or of Japanese ancestry."

According to Lee, because Wingard's version of Death Note is set Seattle, Washington rather than the original Tokyo, no whitewashing has occurred.

"It is an interpretation of that story in a different culture, so there are going to be some obvious changes," Lee said. "Some people will like them, some people may not." He later explained that the alterations had to be made in order to "make [Death Note] more appealing to the U.S. [and] to the English-language market."

Lee also stated that using the term "whitewashing" is "somewhat offensive" because the cast is "diverse," and one of the lead actors (Keith Stanfield, who plays L) is African-American. Paul Nakauchi, Willem Dafoe, and Masi Oka also co-star in the film.

Lee concluded by leaving the conversation open to audiences, urging them to see Death Note before making any accusations. "People can criticize, but I'd say that they should see the movie first," Lee said. "Then they could accuse us of not having a diverse enough cast.. .just judge the movie after it comes out."

Here's the full synopsis: "Death Note revolves around a young man who discovers a notebook with the power to kill someone by scrawling his or her name onto the pages–hence the series' title. Once the boy realizes what he has in his possession, he begins to formulate a plan that would allow him to rule over the world by passing moral judgments on those he deems criminals. These actions eventually garner the attention of a mysterious detective who will stop at nothing to hunt the boy down."

Death Note will be available on Netflix on August 25. Until then, check out these movie remakes that are way different from the original.