British actor Ed Skrein, who previously appeared in Game of Thrones and Deadpool, made a bold move earlier this week when he gave up his role in the upcoming Hellboy reboot after finding out that the character is of Asian origin.
Last week, it was confirmed that Skrein was cast in Lionsgate and Millennium’s Hellboy reboot. He would appear alongside David Harbour, Ian McShane, and Milla Jovovich, the Hollywood Reporter wrote. However, Skrein’s casting was met with criticism, as he was booked to play Ben Daimio, a character who is Asian American in the original Hellboy comics.
Ben Daimio is a special operations soldier who works for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. After he was exposed to a supernatural entity, he gained the ability to turn into a jaguar when angry or in pain.
Ben’s Japanese ancestry was solidly established in the comics. According to Market Watch, his grandmother was a Japanese Imperial assassin during World War II.
Like in many other Hollywood films, casting a white actor to play an Asian character in Hellboy received tremendous backlash from fans and civic groups. Robert Chan, the president of Media Action Network for Asian Americans, described the move as “infuriating.” People on social media also called for a boycott of the film.
However, the public’s outrage over the whitewashing controversy was not ignored, and Ed Skrein took it upon himself to take action.
In a message posted on his Twitter and Instagram accounts on Monday, August 28, Skrein announced that he was dropping out of the Hellboy reboot amidst the whitewashing controversy. He explained that he was unaware of the character’s ethnicity when he accepted the part.
“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 voices in the Arts. I feel it is important to honour and respect that.”
The 34-year-old added that “representation of ethnic diversity is important” to him, especially since his family has a mixed heritage. He added that he hopes to “help make equal representation in the Arts a reality.”
Skrein’s decision to leave Hellboy received the full support of its producers, who told The Hollywood Reporter that they will recast the role with an actor who is more consistent with the character in the original comics.
The actor, who previously appeared as Daario Naharis in Game of Thrones, was also lauded by fellow actors. Iron Fist actress Jessica Henwick said his decision was “immense,” while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Ming-Na Wen called the actor a “rockstar.”
Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and Stranger Things actor David Harbour, who is playing Hellboy in the upcoming reboot, also praised Ed Skrein.
Whitewashing has long been a prevalent problem in Hollywood, especially in terms of casting for films and TV shows. It’s an issue that often goes unheeded until it is already a little too late. High-profile films such as Doctor Strange, Aloha, Dragonball Evolution, The Last Airbender, and Ghost in the Shell were also flooded with criticism for hiring white actors to play Asian characters.
Ghost in the Shell, in particular, was heavily affected by the whitewashing controversy that the film performed poorly at the American box office. Emma Stone, who played a half-Asian character in Aloha, admitted that she came “the butt of many jokes” for taking the part.
Nancy Yuen, associate professor of sociology at Biola University in Los Angeles, told the Washington Post that people are finally beginning to listen to the public’s clamor for the proper casting of characters of color.
Yuen said, “People in power are finally listening to the social media outrage and admitting there could be consequences, however small.”
[Featured Image by D Dipasupil/Getty Images]