I’m Selina, Awards Circuit’s queer Girl Friday for everything LGBTQIA+ on film and TV! Things just keep turning up rainbows in the world of TV, with Ruby Rose’s Batwoman earning her own show and Nicole Maines’ Nia Nal becoming the first transgender female superhero ever in The CW’s “Supergirl.” I didn’t think I could be any happier about the casting choices DC-related shows have been making…and then “Titans” actually cast Chella Man, a deaf genderqueer artist and activist, to play superhero Jericho! Here’s everything we know about Man and Jericho’s history in DC comics.
Chella Man: Model, Actor, and Rising Hollywood Star
Chinese. Jewish. Deaf. Trans. Genderqueer. Chella Man is a wonderful amalgamation that this queer, Filipina American reporter wants to see more of in Hollywood. Though Man may only be 20 years old, he’s already established himself as an activist, artist, model, NYU college student, and now actor. With over 173,000 subscribers and a freshly-minted modeling contract with IMG Models according to Deadline, Man uses his public platform to talk about the intersections of gender, disability, race, and more. His openness about his transition (a journey he summed up in a column for them.), has been both beautiful and fruitful, opening a public safe space for other trans and queer folx to talk about gender identity, transition, and more. With every public post about the power of our differences, he gives queer, trans and disabled folx a voice and a representative in a world that does not always understand us or the intersections of identity.
With a jawline worthy of a superhero and the wisdom to become the genderqueer, Deaf icon young fans deserve to see on TV, Man’s got the internet buzzing about his casting. He summed up his own feelings on Instagram this week, noting:
“In the comics, [Jericho] has always used sign language, as his vocal cords severed by assassins.
Jericho’s mysterious powers are activated by his gaze — if he locks eyes with people he can control their bodies.
As a trans, Deaf, Jewish person of color, I have always reminded myself of the power in my differences.
It is a dream come true, now, as I will be able to showcase this power on the Titans.”
Even after reading through every available article about Man, I’m still shocked and delighted by his casting. Every young fan watching “Titans” will now see a superhero who communicates with ASL and is powerful because of, not in spite of, his differences. Chella Man is the type of role model I want to see from Hollywood, and I’m over the moon about his casting. But just who is Jericho, anyway?
Who Is Jericho? What Will He Bring To Season 2 Of “Titans”?
Jericho, also known as Joseph Wilson, is the son of Deathstroke (aka, Slade Wilson) in the world of DC comics; the character was created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez in the 1980s as a new Teen Titan for the relaunch of the hit comic book series.
A metahuman and musical prodigy, Joseph’s life is turned upside down after assassins kidnap him in order to get back at Deathstroke, a legendary mercenary for hire who never misses his mark. Though Deathstroke eventually rescues his son, the assassins cut Joseph’s throat and destroy his vocal chords. After learning to communicate with ASL, Jericho’s metahuman superpower – the ability to take possession of any human via eye contact – along with his past experiences turn him toward a life of superheroing with the Teen Titans. He’s described as a “gentle natured yet proud hero [who] has proven himself a formidable Titan” by “Titans” producers Greg Berlanti, Akiva Goldsman, Geoff Johns, Sarah Schechter and Greg Walker.
And just who happens to be the archenemy of the Teen Titans?
That’s right. Deathstroke. Welcome to the father-son war of the century.
Per Deadline, Esai Morales is set to play Deathstroke alongside Man in the upcoming season of “Titans.” Described as “DC’s deadliest assassin,” Deathstroke will likely have a pivotal role in “Titans” Season 2, where Teen Titans Nightwing (Brenton Thwaites), Starfire (Anna Diop), Raven (Teagan Croft) and Beast Boy (Ryan Potter) will team up with Man’s Jericho. “Titans” has been a key player for the new DC Universe streaming service, which gave a Season 2 greenlight before the first season even premiered. Clearly, there’s a long game vision for the series, with Deathstroke, Jericho and additional Titan Superboy (set to be played by Joshua Orpin) to thicken the plot.
What Man’s Casting Means For LGBTQIA+ and Deaf Representation On TV
Man is the perfect result of the casting process done correctly. Jericho’s canonical use of sign language to communicate is an integral part of his identity and his journey to superheroing; therefore, the “Titans” bigwigs found a fresh, young actor who can actually sign. With only two other deaf actors to ever make it big on TV (shout out to Nyle DiMarco and Marlee Matlin), the “Titans” producers and casting director also clearly realized the importance of elevating a deaf actor to play a character who signs (see DiMarco’s thoughts on this here). And as a queer comic book fan, I’m so damn excited that a transmasculine, genderqueer actor has been cast to play a male character! It’s still rare to see a trans actor on TV, much less in a role that isn’t specifically about the trans experience. Man’s casting as Jericho shouldn’t be a rare occurrence, but it is. And we need to celebrate this victory.
So, Man is the perfect actor to play Jericho. He’s young, outspoken, and clearly able to handle the pressures of being a potential role model for young Deaf and LGBTQIA+ fans. He’s also incredibly easy on the eyes, as is the rest of the “Titans” cast, so he’ll fit right in. And yes, I know, Jericho was originally blonde in the DC Teen Titans series. Do I care? No. If hair color is your argument for why Man is a bad pick, you’re missing the point of superheroes coming on to TV shows in the first place (and like, hair dye). Superheroes were made to show, as Man said, the power of our differences. Like I said in support of Ruby Rose playing Batwoman: superhero stories are meant to inspire those who need someone to look up to. And that’s exactly what Man’s Jericho will do.