cowboy bebop live-action gren

In the Cowboy Bebop anime, Grencia Mars Elijah Guo Eckener, nicknamed Gren, was always a character for whom gender was…let’s say, fluid. Basically — in a very anime twist on things — an experimental drug causes Gren to grow breasts. Despite the strangeness of Gren’s origins, the character would become informally recognized as an LGBTQ icon in anime. And the Netflix live-action series is taking it one step further: officially making the live-action Gren a nonbinary character.

Netflix revealed that nonbinary actor Mason Alexander Park, who starred in the National Broadway Tour of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, has been cast as Gren in the Cowboy Bebop live-action series, and will officially play Gren as a nonbinary character who uses they/them pronouns.

“Revolutionary as the original anime was, the vocabulary we have today for LGBTQ+ people didn’t quite exist when it aired,” reads a tweet from Netflix. “For the upcoming live action adaptation, the character is being reimagined as nonbinary with a nonbinary actor.”

In the anime, Gren was a veteran of the Titan War who played saxophone at the club known as the Rooster House. Park’s portrayal of the character runs the front of the house for Ana’s jazz club, and describes their version as “capable with their wit as a glock, as confident in a dress as a suit, they are a Bowie-esque embodiment of 22nd century handsome and seductive beauty.”

This is a nice update from Netflix on the anime, which is a medium that always played fast and loose with gender identity and sexuality anyways. (I can think of at least two animes where male characters are frequently turned into women, and vice versa — though usually for comedic effect.) But labeling Gren and cementing their LGBTQ status is a sensitive way of updating a character that existed in a kind of grey area until now.

In the above video, Park calls Gren their favorite character from the anime and “a sexy nonbinary icon.” “Being a nonbinary actor who is given the opportunity to breathe new life into an existing nonbinary character has been the thrill of a lifetime,” they said in a video. “It’s remarkably meaningful to me because I didn’t grow up with a lot of gender-variant representation in the media. There weren’t a lot of other characters that spoke to my experience with gender or my experience with queerness, and representation matters.”

Also joining the cast of Cowboy Bebop are Tamara Tunie as Ana, the “cool and intense” owner of “the hottest underground bluesy jazz club on Mars”; Geoff Stults (Little Fires Everywhere) as Chalmers, Jet Black’s (Mustafa Shakir) former co-detective in the ISSP’s Homicide Division; Rachel House (Thor: Ragnarok) as Mao, the Capo of the Syndicate’s White Tigers family; and Ann Truong (Strikeback!) and Hoa Xuande (Top of the Lake) as Shin & Lin, the twin Syndicate henchmen of hitman Vicious (Alex Hassell).

Cowboy Bebop recently restarted production after star John Cho, who plays the ultra-cool bounty hunter Spike Siegel, sustained a knee injury. André Nemec and Jeff Pinkner serve as showrunners on the series.

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