Why was Chiwetel Ejiofor's character made out to be part Indian (Vincent Kapoor) in the movie The Martian? He otherwise has no Indian history, looks to be Nigerian. Was there a reason why the creators went out of the way to establish Chiwetel Ejiofor's character to have a part Indian origin? It didn't seem relevant to the plot otherwise.
The movie character, Vincent Kapoor, was originally Venket Kapoor, and fully Indian in the book of the same name. The casting of Chiwetel Ejiofor required a slight change on background of the character, otherwise keeping the history intact.
Ridley Scott has not answered any questions on why the casting and changes were made, even when criticized for "white-washing".
I would say that (despite Scott being British) it was to ensure bums on seats in America.
I'm not a hater, but Americans are still presumed by many producers to have quite limited racial tolerances when it comes to entertainment (especially in films, which are, bottom line, money-making ventures). All the Net chatter* suggests they went with a foreigner that the audiences know and like, rather than one that was a right fit ethnically.
I'm from NZ and get ticked off when Cliff Curtis - CLEARLY a Māori from Aotearoa!!! - keeps being cast as Mexican, Middle Eastern, and even light-skinned African American characters in US films and TV shows. While it's great to see him getting work internationally, it's mildly insulting that people can't see his ethnic uniqueness.
This situation in Martian - casting a more well-known and highly-regarded actor despite being ethnically wrong for the role - was what caused a bit of outcry against Ender's Game. Ben Kingsley was cast as Mazer Rackham, a half-Māori character, when of course, he has not a drop of Maori blood in him. Worse - he's British. The British came to Aotearoa and killed many Māori in order to take over the land, finally signing a treaty heavily weighted in favour of the Crown. Wow - talk about inappropriate ...
Oh wait ... Cliff Curtis would have been perfect as Mazer Rackham! BUT - of course, Kingsley trumps Curtis in the well-known stakes.
The film Martian is based on a book, and the character is Indian. Similarly Ender's Game is based on a book, and the character in question is "half-Māori." Part of what rankles is that the makers of the film decide on the one hand to remain faithful to details of ethnicity of characters in the book, while assuming that the audience in general won't be able to tell the difference (or won't care) if the actor doesn't have even the smallest share of that ethnic background. And again, because it's about money primarily, they tend to chose the actor that will be popular, rather than one that might give some sense of legitimacy to the role.
Chatter* also suggests that if they had gone for an ethnically accurate casting choice here, the part would have been scaled down.
*Some examples of Net chatter: http://www.examiner.com/article/manaa-blasts-ridley-scott-for-the-martian-casting-choices, http://www.gq.com/story/why-couldnt-the-martian-have-had-an-indian-dude, http://variety.com/2015/film/news/the-martian-white-washing-asian-american-ridley-scott-1201614155/