People have been looking forward to more information on DC’s upcoming Titans live-action series since it was announced. Slowly but surely, more information came out. Raven and Nightwing were the first to be cast. Hawk and Dove were the most recent to join the fray. But then there was Starfire. By far the most difficult to cast, Starfire is a character whose animated incarnation endeared her to the hearts of many. Her bubbly, but well-rounded personality charmed audiences with ease. Then, some years later, the New52 happened. Starfire’s portrayal in the comics at the time was that of a nigh emotionless, vapid shell of her former self, and people noticed. Loudly.
Suffice it to say, anyone taking the reins of the character, be that in adaptation or in writing, has quite the task on their hands. The writing of the upcoming series remains to be seen. But now Anna Diop is in the hot seat for having been cast in the role. Of the complaints, of course, most referred to her appearance. To which one has to step back and point out that Starfire… is an alien. Technically no one can play that role naturally. Seriously. She’s orange. We’re not talking about “spent too much time in the sun” orange. It’s a very noticeably inhuman color. She also has glowing green eyes and her hair literally catches fire when she flies.
Now if they’d decided to leave her look completely alone, and not even try to have her resemble the character, that’d be one thing. Potentially overreaching for the sake of progressiveness. But remember Gamora? Because Gamora, believe it or not, is played by someone who doesn’t actually have green skin. Go figure, right? Though I do wish the movie had maintained those weird little yellow areas around Gamora’s eyes from the comic. Those always looked cool to me. Anyway, Gamora’s look was ultimately realized through the magic of movie makeup, turning Zoe Saldana’s skin bright green. Naturally, they could easily take a similar approach to Starfire, right? Actually, they took it a step further.
Diop was quick to share a sneak peek at the process behind bringing the character to life. Based on it, they won’t just be painting her orange. The full extent of the effects work isn’t entirely certain, but it seems rather extensive. Though there is an element of worry revolving around going so far for this, as well. VFX (especially in TV, though the gap is getting narrower) have a pretty bad reputation on their own. It can very much result in some uncanny valley level visuals. Especially when used to bring an actual character to life.
— Anna Diop (@TheAnnaDiop) October 12, 2017
Perhaps they’ll simply be using it to accent Diop’s actual appearance, rather than completely render Starfire in CG. This could even help the storytelling. Starfire may be an alien, but she’s very much in line with Kryptonians in that she looks almost entirely human. By blending the VFX with an actual person, they could essentially have something that’s comfortable and familiar, while also adding that certain alienness to the character.
Honestly, the more pressing concern is on the end of things behind the camera, so to speak. One expects DC will have learned from the backlash of the character’s New52 iteration, and bring something that shows a genuine respect for the character. Starfire has been through the ringer, even before landing on Earth and taking on what has to be the most stressful job on the planet… for no money. She’s owed a little bit of brooding time. But hopefully, they’ll not spend too much time in that territory. One of the things that defines better iterations of the character is her bubbly demeanor and loving nature. Her ability to find joy in life, despite the horrible situations that plagued her past. With luck, Diop will deliver a Koriand’r people will love.
Titans will air on Warner Bros. DC Comics digital platform, launching in 2018.