Mason Alexander Park Explains Nonbinary Influence in 'Cowboy Bebop' Remake

by Emell Adolphus

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday November 16, 2021
Originally published on November 16, 2021

Mason Alexander Park
Mason Alexander Park  (Source:Instagram / @masonalexanderpark)

Actor Mason Alexander Park's character Gren in Netflix's "Cowboy Bebop" was reimagined as nonbinary, according to Park after a production hiatus.

In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Park, who identifies as nonbinary, says producers wanted to pursue a new direction for the character, and David Bowie was a major influence.

"Bowie was a really specific fixture for our brain when creating a new design for Gren," said Park. "They took the Blackstar alphabet from Bowie's final album and they created these custom-made rings that say 'they/them.'"

In the "Cowboy Bepop" anime, Gren is a war veteran sent to prison after being tried as a spy. Gren was then given an experimental drug that elevated their estrogen levels and caused them to grow breasts while in jail.

Many fans of the anime show have interpreted the character as nonbinary or trans over the years, and showrunner André Nemec reportedly partnered with Park to help make Gren officially nonbinary.

"Gren does not have a good history of becoming a nonbinary character. [It's] dark and didn't feel like the story that I thought was important to tell," Nemec said. "I never wanted 'Cowboy Bebop' to be a picture of a dystopian future. I wanted it to be nostalgic, but also hopeful. People, I believe, always find their ground, and a way to excel — to live in a better world. A person being nonbinary isn't a discussion. It's just a fact."

Reimagining the character was seen as an opportunity to right some wrongs with the portrayal of the character that no longer fit the times.

"I think everybody approached the reimagining of this character as an opportunity to right some blunders that were just a product of their time or a product of misinformation," Park said. "You can see in the anime that Gren's whole character arc is so heavily influenced by 'The Crying Game,' which to today's audiences doesn't necessarily hold up as the most positive or well-handled trans storytelling."

Gren's identity is originally revealed in a shower scene in which Faye Valentine, a bounty hunter played by Daniella Pineda in the Netflix live-action, confronts them at gunpoint, fearing they are an enemy. Gren's breasts are revealed in the scene, but the particular moment was something Nemec did not want to adapt.

"In the context of the original piece, Gren had been experimented on and their body dysmorphia exists because of this series of events," Park said. "[That] was a huge plot point that doesn't necessarily work well If you have a trans body performing it, nor does it really work well if you have any body performing it if you're trying to tell a story that isn't really rooted in trans trauma."

Wardrobe played a big role in helping Park get more comfortable in the character's skin.

"I have this red blousey turtleneck and black slit skirt, which was our version of the original Gren costume [in the anime], that red button-up that they wear with the suit," Park said. "It's a look that came together last minute, but one that they feel pride with how it came together. It also perfectly exudes who this new iteration of Gren is."

Watch the end result in the opening credits for the show.