Joe Locke’s MCU Character Is Already Controversial—And It’s Not Even Confirmed Yet
On Tuesday, news broke that Joe Locke of Heartstopper had been cast in the upcoming Marvel Disney+ series Agatha: Coven of Chaos. The series is a WandaVision spinoff focusing on the malevolent witch Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn), and although Locke’s specific role in the new series hasn’t been announced, many Marvel fans have decided that he’s probably playing a grownup version of Wanda’s son Billy Kaplan, a.k.a. Wiccan.
In the comics, Billy and his brother Tommy are reincarnated into new bodies after Mephisto reclaims their souls from Wanda and Vision (it’s complicated). After his reincarnation, Billy grows up in a Jewish family in New York City—hence the Jewish last name Kaplan.
And that’s where things start to get sticky.
Locke is Manx, not Jewish, and as many fans point out, there’s a long-running pattern in Hollywood in which non-Jewish actors are cast as Jewish characters. Many Jews are speaking out, saying that Jewish stories should be told by Jewish actors.
This isn’t the first time this issue has come up in a Marvel project. Last spring, when Moon Knight was released on Disney+, we found out late in the season that Marc Spector was Jewish, like his comics counterpart. As I wrote at the time, the question of who gets to play Jewish characters is fraught, because many people don’t realize how deep Jewish identity actually is. A Jew isn’t just someone who goes to a different kind of church. Jewishness is a whole civilization, with a long history and countless cultural practices within it, and Jewish actors should have the opportunity to bring their lived experiences to Jewish roles—especially since antisemitism is on the rise.
But maybe we’re all getting ahead of ourselves. After all, it’s not even confirmed that Locke is playing Billy. There’s some speculation that he may have been cast as Agatha’s son, the sorcerer Nicholas Scratch. (Remember the rabbit Señor Scratchy from WandaVision?)
So let’s all keep calm for now. Maybe Locke has been cast as Billy and he’ll do a bang-up job (even though the larger pattern is still problematic). Maybe he’s been cast in some other role (although the casting call that was released last summer seems to point to Billy). We’ll have to wait and see.
(featured image: John Phillips/Getty Images)
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