Ed Skrein (“Deadpool”), who was cast as the Japanese American Major Ben Daimio in a reboot of “Hellboy,” has dropped out of the role. Skrein, who is white, found himself in the midst of the ongoing controversy on Hollywood whitewashing. “Hellboy” fans were frustrated by yet another instance of an Asian character being whitewashed in an American film adaptation. For once, somebody listened. The actor took to Twitter to speak about his decision:
Last week it was announced that I would be playing Major Ben Daimio in the upcoming HELLYBOY reboot. I accepted the role unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage. There has been intense conversation and understandable upset since that announcement, and I must do what I feel is right.
It is clear that representing this character in a culturally accurate way holds significance for people, and that to neglect this responsibility would continue a worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voice in the Arts. I feel it is important to honour and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately.
Representation of ethnic diversity is important, especially to me as I have a mixed heritage family. It is our responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and to give voice to inclusivity. It is my hope that one day these discussions will become less necessary and that we can help make equal representation in the Arts a reality.
I am sad to leave Helly but if this decision brings us closer to that day, it is worth it. I hope it makes a difference.
With love and hope,
Though whitewashing in Hollywood is far from new (see “Dr. Strange” and “Ghost in the Shell”), THR notes that this is the first time a white actor has stepped down from a role after being called out. Whether or not Skrein actually knew the Daimio was Asian in the comics isn’t certain, but the move certainly seems heartfelt. David Harbour (“Stranger Things”), who’s also starring in the film, acknowledged fans’ concerns and thanked Skrein for stepping down. “Hellboy” producers Larry Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Millennium and Lionsgate also released a statement supporting Skrein, saying:
“Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this. We fully support his unselfish decision. It was not our intent to be insensitive to issues of authenticity and ethnicity, and we will look to recast the part with an actor more consistent with the character in the source material.”
Harbour, who’s set to portray Hellboy in the reboot, stars alongside Ian McShane (“American Gods”) and Milla Jovovich (“Resident Evil”). Neil Marshall is set to direct the reboot, which is based off the original “Hellboy” comics created by Mike Mignola.
Skrein is best known for playing baddie Ajax in “Deadpool,” along with portraying Ed in “Ill Manors.”