Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop is finally out, and its arrival has reignited fans’ passion for the original series as well as some spirited debate. Mustafa Shakir’s role as Jet Black is one to be celebrated, as out of all the characters adapted, he feels like one pulled straight from the anime. Of course, his casting brought about much discussion, as fans went back and forth on the race of the original character, voiced by Beau Billingslea, who has shared his thoughts on Jet Black's race.
The debate happened with the original Cowboy Bebop, as some fans never could tell if Jet Black was white or Black. In fact, some could’ve assumed the latter, which made it confusing when producers for the Netflix series called the casting a “change” from the original character. I got a chance to speak to Jet Black voice actor Beau Billingslea and the rest of the Cowboy Bebop anime voice cast on behalf of Funimation, and asked Billingslea (who is Black) if he ever considered the character’s race or was told the character was portrayed one way or another.
Beau Billingslea pointed out that voicing an anime character whose race wasn’t his own wasn’t uncommon for him, so it wasn’t something he thought about. Jet Black was, as he said, gray in tone, and that’s all he ever really thought about while doing Cowboy Bebop.
With all that said, Beau Billingslea did note he found it interesting that Mustafa Shakir got the role of Jet Black for the Netflix series. At the same time, he reiterated that he didn’t have much to share on Jet’s race because it just wasn’t a thing he thought of at the time.
So, for anyone hoping that the secret answer to this long-running Cowboy Bebop debate came out behind the scenes, it wasn’t even something on Beau Billingslea’s radar back then. I guess for fans, the debate may continue in regards to Jet Black, though after hearing Billingslea’s thoughts, I’m inclined to ask, does it really matter?
The original Cowboy Bebop is available to stream on Funimation’s streaming service right now. Fans can check it out there, and of course, binge the live-action series over at Netflix.
Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.
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