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Why Casting Netflix’s Live-Action One Piece Was A Major Challenge Detailed By Director: “(It) Will Live & Die On The Audience”-TGN

Summary

  • Director Marc Jobst faced a major challenge in casting the live-action One Piece show, as finding actors with natural chemistry was vital for success.
  • The casting process involved seeing thousands of people and prioritizing actors with heart, warmth, and potential for on-screen chemistry.
  • The show aims to stay true to the source material, with close involvement from creator Eiichiro Oda and efforts to recreate iconic details, despite some minor changes that may prompt explanations in the live-action adaptation.


With one of the biggest legacies in the genre, director Marc Jobst details how casting was a major challenge for Netflix’s live-action One Piece show. Based on Eiichiro Oda’s manga of the same name, the show follows Monkey D. Luffy, a pirate with a dream to become the King of the Pirates, as he sails the seas looking to build a crew of navigators, cooks, and fighters to find the mythical One Piece. Iñaki Godoy is leading the ensemble One Piece cast as Luffy alongside Emily Rudd, Mackenyu, Jacob Romero Gibson, Taz Skyler, Vincent Regan and Morgan Davies.

In anticipation of the show’s premiere, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with Marc Jobst to break down the One Piece live-action show. When looking at the casting process for the adaptation, the director detailed the major challenge he and the creative team faced in putting together the roster for the show, explaining the importance of finding actors with natural chemistry, as that is “magic” that “you can’t create“, and that its chances of success laid on their shoulders. See what Jobst explained below:

I come from theater, so I think my work with my with actors is very important to how I shoot action shows. I think that’s, perhaps, one of the reasons why Marvel and I have enjoyed such a kind of fruitful relationship is because you can take two-dimensional characters and make them feel real, so, we worked together on the cast, unquestionably, from day one. As soon as I was brought on board this show, we said, “We need to start casting it now,” firstly, because we wanted a global cast. So, that’s a lot of people to see, we saw thousands of people.

Second of all, we wanted actors that had heart, that had warmth, and that we could build together, that we feel there’s going to be some kind of chemistry, because that’s magic. That’s not something that, you know, no matter how good the scripts are, it doesn’t matter how good the sets are, doesn’t matter how good a director I am, if you haven’t got that, you can’t create it. One Piece will live and die on how the audience fall in love with these characters, so we started that process really, really early on. As a director, I like to give my actors quite a bit of audition time, so I don’t just get them to come in and read a piece and then say, “Thanks very much, we’ll get back to you.” I like to work them through scenes, work them quite hard, so we tend to do anything between 20-minute and 30-minute auditions.

Then, on top of that, I wanted physical actors, not only actors who can act, hold drama in emotional scenes, but also who could carry some of the action. Because the way that I shoot action, and the way that I wanted to shoot action for One Piece in particular, was in big, long, flowing shots that follow them through from one sequence to the next, and then picked up another actor in all the rest of it. Now, if you’re constantly having to replace the actor with stunt doubles, you can’t do that, and that’s something that I learned on The Witcher when I was working with Henry Cavill.

Luffy is the hardest character to cast, because he carries the whole show, and he is the driver of positivity. He believes in having dreams, he believes in believing in yourself, he inspires people to be themselves, to be more of themselves, he wants to help them become more of themselves. When Kiki came in, when Iñaki came in, we just knew, partly because he made us all laugh in his audition. He did something crazy, and off-script, very deliberately, and it was like, “Oh, okay, he’s got some cheek and some charm, and some chutzpah to him.” That’s kind of Luffy, and the reason why I say he’s the hardest to cast is because that positivity can get quite irritating in film, and he never did, I don’t feel. He just emanated warmth and goodwill.

Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, and the show covered here would not exist without the labor of the writers and actors in both unions.


How The Live-Action One Piece Cast Compares To The Anime

The first poster released for the Netflix adaptation had been met with largely positive feedback from fans of the source material, though some took issue with Luffy now donning a pair of shoes instead of sandals, which Rudd later explained stem from Godoy and the cast performing many of their own stunts. The rest of Luffy’s design, however, has been acclaimed for its near-perfect recreation of everything from the scar just below his left eye to his iconic straw hat and the CGI used for his rubber-based powers.

Mackenyu’s Roronoa Zoro design has similarly found its lack of a bandanna questioned by some longtime fans of the One Piece manga and anime, namely the scene in which he is rescued from being executed by the Marines, while his three-sword-wielding skills and sly demeanor have already been met with much anticipation. Rudd’s Nami, Skylar’s Sanji, and Gibson’s Usopp, on the other hand, all hew very closely to their source counterparts, especially understandable for the former given her “not-so-secret” career plan to play Luffy’s beloved navigator.

Related: One Piece Is Making 1 Big Nami Change For Netflix’s Live-Action Show

While the minor details will be sweat over by some hardcore fans of Oda’s works, Jobst and the rest of the live-action One Piece team look to have taken every step possible to stay true to what audiences have come to know and love about its source material. Additionally, with Oda himself having close involvement with the Netflix show and assuring nothing veers too far from his vision, it seems likely even the most minor of changes could get meaningful explanations in their translations to live-action.

One Piece begins streaming on Netflix on August 31.

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