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Actors We Want To See In A Live-Action Dragon Ball Z Movie

"Dragon Ball Z" is one of the most influential anime ever, especially internationally. It's what helped put Toonami on the map after the show debuted on the programming block in 1999, despite "DBZ" being released a decade earlier in Japan. The show was so influential, in fact, that a lot of times when anime is being parodied in other properties, it's often "Dragon Ball Z" that it's being modeled after.

The story of "DBZ" follows an alien super fighter raised on Earth named Goku, who fights off other super-powerful intergalactic threats (such as Vegeta, Frieza, and Cell) with the help of his own super-powered allies, like his childhood friend Krillin or the stoic, green-skinned, rival-turned-ally Piccolo.

The series is actually a sequel to the popular anime "Dragon Ball," which ran from 1986 to 1989. That series depicted Goku as a child, and was atrociously adapted into a live-action film in 2009, with the baffling title "Dragonball Evolution."

However, with Netflix refusing to stop adapting anime into live-action (to so-far middling success), there's a chance "Dragon Ball Z" will be the next to be adapted. They're even giving "Avatar: The Airbender" another chance, so nothing's off the table at this point.

But if Netflix — or some other studio — was to turn "DBZ" into live-action ... who should play the roles?

Ross Butler as Goku

Goku is an interesting character, for as strong as he is, and as much as he loves fighting, Goku isn't really your typical "badass" character. In fact, unless pushed far beyond the edge (which does happen occasionally), he's usually very goofy and happy-go-lucky most of the time.

With that in mind, the person that should be cast as Goku should a) look strong enough to kick butt, but b) also act convincingly goofy and carefree without having those two traits come off as contradictory. Also, he shouldn't be whitewashed like he was in the aforementioned cinematic abomination "Dragonball Evolution," which cast Justin Chatwin (best known as the most annoying character in Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds") as Goku.

While there are many actors who could pull all that off, a good choice that fits all the criteria would be Ross Butler ("Riverdale," "Shazam"). He certainly has the physique for the role, but he also showed off the requisite goofy charm needed to successfully pull off Goku in "Shazam," playing the superhero version of Eugene. The latter role also provided him experience with flying on wires, dealing with extensive special effects, and elaborate fight choreography.

Bowen Yang as Krillin

Krillin is an underrated character in the "Dragon Ball" universe, as he is literally the most powerful human in the entire world. He's only overshadowed by the other characters since –- like Goku –- they're usually aliens from space. However, he is still nonetheless often used as a comic relief foil in comparison to his much more powerful friends.

This means that whoever is cast as live-action Krillin should also have some comedic chops, which are much harder to fake than learning fight choreography (especially since stunt and CG doubles would inevitably be used anyway).

Actor-comedian Bowen Yang, who made his debut on "Saturday Night Live" in 2019, is someone who could work out and bulk up to look a lot like our boy Krillin, while also being able to convey his personality in live-action. Sure, he has admittedly not starred in any action films as of yet, but — as mentioned above — that's a lot easier to fake than charisma or comedic timing, which Yang already possesses.

Michael B. Jordan as Vegeta

Star Michael B. Jordan ("Creed," "Black Panther") is a vocal and avid anime fan — to the point that it's entirely possible his Killmonger costume in "Black Panther" was based on the egotistical Saiyan conqueror Vegeta himself, as well as the actor creating a "Naruto"-inspired fashion line.

But beyond that, Jordan is a great and intense actor who could perfectly convey Prince Vegeta's legendary rage, arrogance, and strength in live-action. He also would have the physicality down, as he trained in fighting for "Creed," as well as the aforementioned Killmonger in "Black Panther."

Furthermore, one of the most interesting things about Vegeta is his eventual redemption arc, and this is where Jordan's casting would truly shine. Despite his strength and intensity, Vegeta has a vulnerability that gets peeled back as the series progresses. Jordan could very much tap into that judging by his previous dramatic roles — such as those in "Fruitvale Station" and "The Wire" — which would make for a truly captivating performance.

Idris Elba as Piccolo

Piccolo is a fan-favorite "Dragon Ball Z" character, and for good reason. His backstory is a bit convoluted, but the gist of it is he's the reincarnation of the final boss in the "Dragon Ball" anime, a green-skinned alien warrior from the planet Namek who tried to take over Earth before Goku eventually stopped him.

Throughout "DBZ," however, Piccolo goes from Goku's rival to one of his closest allies, and in many ways is even more of a father figure to Goku's son Gohan than even Goku is. He's honestly one of the more complex characters in the series.

This is why you'd need a great actor to do the character justice. Piccolo is certainly stoic, strong, and badass, but he's also hiding true conflict, pathos, and empathy underneath his otherwise stony exterior. That's why you'd need someone of Idris Elba's gravitas and charisma to pull it off. Not only is he a tremendous actor, but he's no stranger to stunt and VFX-heavy genre fare, such as "Hobbs and Shaw" or "The Suicide Squad." Heck, speaking of "The Suicide Squad," his reluctant father-figure role as Bloodsport to Daniela Melchior's Ratcatcher II is pretty similar to the reluctant father-figure role he would play to Gohan in "DBZ" as well.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Chi-Chi

Chi-Chi, Goku's wife and the mother of his son Gohan, is an extremely important character in the "Dragon Ball" universe. She's the glue that keeps the family together, especially since Goku keeps dying and/or training, thus not really taking care of his children (the reason why Piccolo is often credited by fans as Gohan's real dad).

You need an actress that can be maternal, but also looks like she can give someone a serious beatdown when need be (though, to be fair, those aren't necessarily mutually exclusive traits), since Chi-Chi was first introduced as a fighter in the original "Dragon Ball." An actress who has embodied both of those traits — whether as zombie destroyer Sasha Williams in "The Walking Dead" or the concerned mother in "Space Jam: A New Legacy" (of all things) -– is Sonequa Martin-Green.

Her roles in the aforementioned "The Walking Dead" and "Star Trek: Discovery" would also prepare her for all the potentially challenging stunts and extensive VFX that would be needed to bring "DBZ" to life in live-action.

Jackie Chan as Master Roshi

2005's "Dragonball Evolution," the first attempt to turn the "Dragon Ball" series into a live-action film (well, the first Western attempt, as 1991's "Dragon Ball: The Magic Within" predates it by almost 15 years), was historically dismal. It wreaked havoc on the lore (aging Goku up from 12 to 18 and making it a high school drama for some reason), had terrible VFX, and –- again –- whitewashed Goku.

That all being said, one thing "Dragonball Evolution" did do right was cast legendary Hong Kong action star Chow Yun-Fat as Master Roshi, who was perfect for the role (despite the film not giving him the classic bald head, sunglasses, and long gray beard from the cartoon).

Unfortunately, if a live-action "DBZ" were to come to pass, it would need to distance itself from the "Dragonball Evolution" film as much as possible. That includes, unfortunately, re-casting Master Roshi. Luckily, another martial arts movie star would be just as — if not even more — perfect for the role: Jackie Chan.

Chan has shown that he can do both action and comedy (since Roshi is a bit of a comic relief character, on top of being fierce), as well as play a great mentor role, as he did in the otherwise mediocre "The Karate Kid" remake. Hopefully they make him look like the freakin' cartoon this time as well.

Aubrey Plaza as Bulma

Bulma is one of Goku's earliest and most important allies, as they met in the first episode of the original "Dragon Ball" anime. She is a brilliant scientist/engineer, and in fact created the Dragon Radar which is used to find the elusive dragon balls throughout the series.

She is also a mixture of strong-willed, eccentric, and comedic, and often gets involved in the action herself. So you'd need an actress who can embody all those traits into one, and Aubrey Plaza is someone who quickly comes to mind.

Plaza obviously has comedic chops and an eccentric public persona, which would come in handy in portraying Bulma's brilliance and idiosyncrasies, but Plaza's also been honing both her dramatic chops in things like "Legion" and the recent "Chucky" remake, as well as pushing to do more action roles, such as the upcoming "Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre."

This time, however, make all her hair blue, not just a single strand like in "Dragonball Evolution."

Ian Anthony Dale as Raditz

Raditz is a powerful, evil Saiyan warrior, who also happens to be the older brother of "Dragon Ball Z" protagonist Goku. Raditz also explains Goku's true backstory to him — that he was meant to come to Earth to conquer it, but a bump on his head while landing on the planet made Goku forget his mission and become a hero instead (similar to the plot of "The Iron Giant").

Ian Anthony Dale is a Japanese-American actor who's no stranger to villainous or action-oriented roles. He famously played Kazuya Mishima, the main antagonist in the 2010 "Tekken" live-action movie, as well as Scorpion in the popular "Mortal Kombat: Legacies" web series.

With his threatening charisma, combined with his stunt and fighting chops, Ian Anthony Dale would be a great choice to play Raditz. He'd be more than a match to menace Ross Butler's Goku and friends as the first main antagonist of the live-action film and hopefully series. That is, until Michael B. Jordan's Vegeta shows up.

Nathan Jones as Nappa

While certainly a very imposing figure, there isn't really else much to Vegeta's fellow Saiyan warrior Nappa beyond his physique. This means, as long as you found someone who was huge, bald, and could potentially rock a killer mustache, then you'd have your perfect Nappa.

And what do you know? There's a huge actor named Nathan Jones, who stands at 6' 11" and carries 330 lbs. of pure muscle, that would be perfect to fill Nappa's Saiyan armor! Heck, he's even bigger than the original cartoon character's height, which is only 6' 10".

Nathan Jones is also no stranger to films with elaborate stunts or extensive VFX, as he has been featured prominently in many popular action films over the years, including as Rictus Erectus in "Mad Max: Fury Road" and as Reiko in last year's "Mortal Kombat." Not only that, but he also had prominent roles in classic martial arts films like "Fearless," starring Jet Li, and "The Protector," starring Tony Jaa.

Noah Centineo as Yamcha

Yamcha is one of Goku's earliest rivals and allies, having first appeared in the original "Dragon Ball" anime. Like Krillin, Yamcha is often underestimated, since he is one of the most powerful humans on Earth. Also like Krillin, Yamcha is quickly outmatched by the various intergalactic threats he finds himself up against, such as the Saiyans, Frieza, Cell, and so on. By the end of "Dragon Ball Z" he becomes semi-retired because of it.

He is also a semi-comedic character — one of his earliest traits being that although he was a deadly warrior in combat, he couldn't talk to women without choking up. So anyone cast as a live-action Yamcha should be believable as both a capable fighter and as a bit of a goof.

That's where Noah Centineo comes in. He's proved himself as an awkward, bumbling comedic lead in films like "The Perfect Date," and will soon get his first chance at a big-budget, VFX-driven action role playing Atom Smasher in the upcoming "Black Adam" (he was previously attached to play He-Man in an abandoned "Masters of the Universe" film as well).

Iko Uwais as Tien

If you were to do a live-action "Dragon Ball Z," presumably you'd want to have a lot of the Earth champions (known as "The Dragon Team") to appear in it. Narratively, this would help fill out the cast roster, both as welcome fan service, but also so that they can be used as casualties to showcase how dangerous the villains truly are (the way these characters were often used in the show, but especially during "The Saiyan Saga").

There are many such characters from the anime to choose from, but Tien — a fan-favorite and visually distinct warrior –- would be at the top of that list. This is due, in part, to his interesting design, which includes a literal third eye on his forehead, as well as his similarly impressive-looking "Tri-Beam" special attack.

An actor that would be perfectly suited to bring Tien's physicality, fighting prowess, and intensity to life would be "The Raid" and "The Raid 2" star Iko Uwais, who has proven time and time again that he's a formidable martial arts master on screen, and would do Tien justice in live-action.

Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Frieza

Frieza is probably one of the –- if not the most –- memorable villains in all of "Dragon Ball Z." While there have certainly been much more powerful adversaries in the anime's long run, Frieza still nonetheless made an indelible mark during his debut.

There are many reasons for his memorability. For one, his various forms were unique and alien, which made him stand out from the more humanoid Saiyans, and much more frightening as well. His fighting prowess and power were also unmatched up to that point, when it took the destruction of an entire planet just to (temporarily) take him out.

While the character's otherworldly design would most likely necessitate CGI and motion capture, there would still need to be a threatening voice to accompany it. This is why Japanese actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa would be perfect for the role, as he has a knack for creating distinct and iconic villains such as Shang Tsung in "Mortal Kombat" (in fact, he did such a great job, the most recent "MK" game canonized him as the official video game Shang as well). Without Tagawa's special menace and charisma, Frieza would otherwise just be a sterile special effect.