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Joe Locke’s MCU Character Is Already Controversial—And It’s Not Even Confirmed Yet

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 12: Joe Locke attends the Attitude Awards 2022 at The Roundhouse on October 12, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)

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.

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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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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>

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