Whitewashing accusations compelled a White actor to step away from an originally Asian-American movie role yesterday (August 28).
According to The Hollywood Reporter (THR), British actor Ed Skrein (“Deadpool”) signed on to portray the Japanese-American Major Benjamin “Ben” Daimio in an upcoming film reboot of the “Hellboy” comic series on August 21. Similar to previous controversies with “Ghost in the Shell“ and “Doctor Strange,” his casting as an Asian-American character prompted immediate backlash from members of the Asian diaspora and allies:
Asian-American community-focused outlet Reappropriate.co reported on Wednesday (August 23) that “Hellboy” executive producer Christa Campbell (“The Hitman’s Bodyguard”) dismissed the criticism on Twitter. She has since deleted those tweets, but Reappropriate.co’s quotes of their text includes: “Stop projecting your own shit onto us. We are all one. We don’t see colors or race,” and “Stop using the racist word. My family is from Thailand. And a mixed culture. Get a life.”
The backlash continued until yesterday, when Skrein tweeted a message announcing his departure from the role:
“I accepted the role unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage,” Skrein wrote. “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.”
Skrein additionally cited his “mixed heritage family” when explaining that he wouldn’t take the role. The rapper and actor, a Brit who is of partial Austrian Jewish descent, has a son named Marley, whose mother is Black.
“Hellboy” producers Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin (“Watchmen”) praised Skrein’s decision in a statement to Deadline: ”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.”
Neither of the producers mentioned specific actors of Asian descent who are being considered for the role.