The upcoming US live-action adaptation of Reki Kawahara’s Sword Art Online light novels will feature Asian actors in the two lead roles, Writer and Producer Laeta Kalogridis confirmed to Collider in an interview published earlier today.
Discussing the series, which has recently been confirmed as heading to streaming service Netflix, Kalogridis noted the following in regards to lead characters Kirito and Asuna:
SAO is an essentially Japanese property, in which Kirito and Asuna, who are the two leads, are Japanese. In the television show, Kirito and Asuna will be played by Asian actors. Whether or not that was the question underneath your question, it’s not a conversation about whitewashing. When I sold it to Netflix, we were all on the same page. They are not interested in whitewashing it, and I am not interested in whitewashing it.
She then clarified that some members of the secondary cast, such as Klein and Agil, are more likely to be portrayed by actors of other ethnicities, owing to her interpretation of the titular game’s global appeal:
In terms of the secondary characters, because the game is meant to be global, the way it’s presented in the anime and in the light novels, there are secondary characters that clearly are from other parts of the world, like Klein and Agil. To me, it’s very obvious when you watch it that you’re meant to take that this game spans the globe
You can read more of Collider’s interview, where Kalogridis discusses her and the showrunners’ vision for the series’ tone, here.
Laeta Kalogridis is currently slated to write the pilot episode of Sword Art Online, which will be produced by Skydance Television for Netflix. Laeta Kalogridis will also serve as Executive Producer alonngside showrunners Patrick Massett and John Zinman (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), Skydance Television president Marcy Ross, David Ellison and Dana Goldberg.