Actor Ed Skrein is taking himself out of the Hellboy reboot, citing the outcry of whitewashing when he was initially cast as a non-white role from the comic book. That role is Major Ben Daimio, a character who happens to be Japanese. His move is practically unheard of, especially since we’ve been seeing a huge increase in whitewashing in films like Ghost In The Shell, Doctor Strange, Death Note, and much more. When the casting was initially announced, the backlash was swift with many decrying it.
But the Deadpool and Game of Thrones actor believed 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.” More on what he had to say and the importance of representation here below.
Here’s Skrein’s full statement:
I can’t remember the last time an actor ever pulled out of a role because of the whitewashing controversy. But I got to hand it to Skrein for leaving the role because of it. And his reasoning couldn’t be more on point. Which makes me wonder why Scarlett Johansson or Tilda Swinton didn’t drop out of Ghost In The Shell or Doctor Strange, respectively.
That being said, this is a major step in the right direction for representation. And the fact that he made the decision to do that on his own, out of respect for the character’s Japanese heritage, makes the move even more powerful.
So I admire Mr. Skrein for doing the right thing, especially when he didn’t have to. As he said in his statement, he wasn’t aware of the character’s ethnic background. Sometimes these things are overlooked or aren’t included in the descriptions.
“Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this. We fully support his unselfish decision,” Lionsgate, the studio behind the reboot, said in a statement [via Variety]. “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.”
While I am glad that Lionsgate accepted him taking himself out of the role because of the controversy, I hope this makes everyone else aware that representation is important. We’ll just have to see if Hollywood backoffs practicing whitewashing or if more actors decide to follow in Skrein’s footsteps.