Secrecy and speculation go hand in hand with Marvel projects. From development to casting, the entire process is kept under wraps. Fans hunt for clues on the internet, and insiders share knowledge to build a bigger unofficial picture of things for the stories they love and care about. Casting and figuring out who has said “yes” to a role is a big part of that process. Today, we can report that actress Jona Xiao has apparently landed a role in an upcoming Marvel project.
According to Jona Xiao’s resume on Actors Access, she has been cast as a lead actress in an unknown Disney+ project for Marvel. More specifically, the listing states that she’s a “lead female” in an “NDA Marvel Project” on Disney+.
A lead role generally means the story is centered on the character somehow. Based on the listing, we can’t tell if the project is live-action or animated. Jona Xiao has worked in both mediums throughout her career. And Marvel certainly has many live and animated projects to release in the years ahead.
Who is Jona Xiao?
Jona Xiao has an impressive resume and some exciting and extensive career experiences. She has a large social media following and has some great comedic and drama chops. Xiao’s been on the CBS drama S.W.A.T. as Grace Lin and Starz’s Hightown as Daisy. She even starred with Chris Evans and Octavia Spencer in the feature Gifted as the character of Lijuan.
Superhero fans might recognize her as a metahuman and “villain” from an episode of The Flash. She played the Rainbow Raider 2.0, aka Carrie Bates, in “Good-Bye Vibrations,” episode 12 of the 7th Season. Xiao’s Raider mesmerized a bank employee for $10 million and even had some cool fight scenes with The Flash. Ultimately, it turns out Bates wasn’t doing it to be evil but to help people – a sparkly Robin Hood.
The actress has stunt skills and athletic prowess, too. Her resume lists stage combat training with Tod Gillanardo. And excitingly, Xiao is also the quarterback of the LA-based She-Unit flag football team. Last year, her football skills landed her in a Superbowl commercial for Team Milk.
Xiao was also a young Namaari in the animated and Oscar-nominated Raya and The Last Dragon. This year, Xiao was named “One to Watch” by WeAudition at Sundance.
Jona Xiao also has a history with Marvel
Xiao’s described herself in interviews as a superhero fan. In addition to her time as a DC bad guy, Xiao also has a history with Marvel Studios. She reportedly auditioned for roles in several Marvel stories and was ultimately cast in Spider-man: Homecoming.
The rollout for Xiao in Spider-man: Homecoming was splashy, complete with an exclusive article in the Hollywood trade Variety. At the time of the announcement, details about the role were unavailable. Xiao even told NBC News that her friends and family couldn’t pry the role information from her.
“I remember a couple of my friends, who were really big into the Marvel comics, they were like, ‘Blink if you’re Silk. Blink if you’re this.’ They would just start naming all these characters,” Xiao said. “I’d be like, ‘Guys, I’m sorry. I literally can’t say anything.’ – Jason Pham (via NBC News, 4/12/2017)
Unfortunately, the role was cut from the film, and fans were left with only speculation about what it could have been. On Xiao’s resume, she lists her role in Spider-man: Homecoming as that of a character named “Gina.”
What’s the deal with NDAs?
Marvel is famous for making actors and everyone involved with their productions sign NDAs – or non-disclosure agreements. It’s a fact of life that has spawned thousands of memes. NDAs are contracts where the signers promise to keep information confidential or face penalties.
One of the ways that working actors and Hollywood professionals can get around NDAs and still comply with them is by listing “NDA project” on their resumes. Casting directors understand the deal in that case. So, in this case, an actor like Xiao can still go out for work and use their latest credit as something to help them get more jobs.
What Marvel project has Jona Xiao been cast in?
Because of the confidentiality of the project, we don’t know. But we can speculate and piece things together based on the shows we know that will be filmed soon.
Was it Agatha all along?
Agatha: Coven of Chaos is filming now in Georgia. We’ve been following and reporting the filming details as they develop. Given that the NDA role is a lead role and Xiao is currently at Sundance and not in Georgia, she’s probably not on the witchy show.
Hollywood, Spoofed: Could it be Wonder Man?
Wonder Man will reportedly begin filming in March 2023. It follows Simon Williams, AKA Wonder Man, and will star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Sir Ben Kingsley. There have also been unconfirmed reports that Courtney Cox and Bob Odenkirk would be in the series. The Cosmic Circus exclusively reported the working title and production company for the show in October.
Could Jona Xiao be in Wonder Man? Certainly. While rumors have said that Courtney Cox is the female lead in the series, nothing has been confirmed. Interestingly, casting grids that have made their way onto the internet said the show was also looking for a “Female, 35-50. Any ethnicity (likely will go BIPOC). Comedic edge is helpful, not necessary. 4 EPS.” Xiao is younger than this casting call but has the charisma and comedic background to pull something like this off, but would four episodes be enough to qualify as a lead?
What about Daredevil: Born Again?
Daredevil: Born Again will also start filming soon in NY, with Charlie Cox returning to Matt Murdock. The writers’ room is stacked, and the cast for the show has slowly been announced. Michael Gandolfini will be in it, as well as Nikki M. James. Joining them are Sandrine Holt and Margarita Levieva. This show has considerable talent, and Xiao would fit right in. But no way to be sure yet if this is where she’s landing.
Other Marvelous possibilities…
Other Disney+ live-action possibilities yet to film include Armor Wars, Nova, or The Ten Rings series. If Jona Xiao’s in something already filmed, it could be Secret Invasion, Ironheart, or Echo. But it’s harder to keep lead roles for scenes already filmed secret.
Could it be for an animated project?
Of course, there’s always the possibility that the lead role Xiao has been cast in is animated. A few months ago, the actress teased in an Instagram story that she was at Outloud Audio. In the post, she said she “had another really amazing voiceover recording session working as the lead female on a big NDA project.” Tho she didn’t specify that it was for Marvel, she also said she was “playing a very badass character!”
An interesting animated possibility for the actress would be an untitled series set to be helmed by a Mandarin-speaking character. The series, according to reports, has spies, aliens, and influential artifacts from around the world.
According to a casting call posted by Daniel RPK posted 7 months ago, the series will consist of 30-minute episodes for release on Disney+. The casting call was for a character named Jin. Jin is “female, late 20s, Chinese warrior, although she has a gentle, calm side, Jin is no pushover. In fact, she is possibly the best-trained martial artist in the world. When Bosco steals an artifact from her people, she feels quite betrayed and is determined to retrieve it. She has a sophistication and maturity to her…”
Xiao’s resume lists her as fluent in Chinese and resume, so she certainly could fit that role.
Other upcoming Marvel animated projects include Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, X-Men 97, Marvel Zombies, and Spider-man Freshman Year. Given that Xiao already has some Spider-man experience, Freshman Year could be a strong possibility.
Time Will Tell what Xiao’s Marvel role is
It’s also possible that Xiao has been cast in the lead role in a show we don’t even know about. Ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see. We’re excited to learn more about the role Jona Xiao plays for Marvel.
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Sources: Jona Xiao’s Resume on Actors Access / NBC News – A Long Way from Rappingstilskin / CBR.com Wonderman / MSS Reddit Wonderman Casting Grid (via Daniel RPK’s Patreon) / Fansided – Jona Xiao Fights Stereotypes Onscreen and Onfield