In a film industry where misrepresentation and whitewashing are continually criticised, it takes the actions of individuals to bring to light the need for change. The casting of Ed Skrein as Ben Daimio in Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen last week sparked controversy over the character’s very different background; now, Skrein has departed from the project in an effort to push better casting.
In the comics, Ben Daimio is a Japanese American whose grandmother was a Japanese Imperial assassin in World War II. British actor Ed Skrein (Game of Thrones, Deadpool) is rather of Jewish Austrian and English descent. Though Skrein and even the character’s creator Mike Mignola were excited for his casting, plenty were naturally disappointed.
Many chimed in to criticise the casting as another step in whitewashing Hollywood; Asian actor Simu Liu (Taken) wrote “Hey Hollywood, how many box office flops does it take for you to learn how to cast properly? #hellboy #whitewashedout” whilst anime voiceover artist Stephanie Sheh commented “Here we go again. Why Hollywood do you keep forcing me to boycott your films. #whitewash #hellboy.”
The casting came off the back of criticism over Netflix’s whitewashing of Death Note (which replaced Light Yagami with Light Turner) and Scarlett Johansson‘s casting as Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell.
The outcry was certainly heard, most received by the actor himself. Taking a bold and respected move, Skrein took to Twitter to share that he was exiting the reboot in respect of better representation.
He acknowledged that the casting of white actors to represent other cultures contributes to the “tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories“, and as a descendant of “mixed heritage” himself, asserted that “representation of ethnic diversity is important“. He steps down so that “the role can be cast appropriately“.
The move was well received, with David Harbour (who stars in the Hellboy reboot) tweeting “Hey internet. Thank you for your voices. An injustice was done and will be corrected. Many thanks to @edskrein for doing what is right.”
Producers under Millennium and Lionsgate also released a statementin support of Skrein, and in defense of their decision: “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.”
The casting move wasn’t the first and likely isn’t the last, but the move by Skrein has brought to greater light an issue that shouldn’t be around anymore. We can only hope that it helps change the approach to castin that Hollywood has ingrained.
Read Ed Skrein’s full statement on his departure below.
— Ed Skrein (@edskrein) August 28, 2017