Deadpool actor Ed Skrein has announced that he will be stepping down from his role as Major Ben Daimio in the Hellboy reboot to make way for a culturally accurate depiction of the character.
The update comes just a week out from the original casting announcement, which confirmed that Skrein would take on the role of the Japanese American character. The reboot received an onslaught of backlash from fans of the franchise, who were eager for an accurate depiction of the heritage which plays a significant role for the character in the cult comic book series.
You’re a talented actor; why would you take away a role from an Asian colleague?
— Heautontimoroumenos (@paulengelhard) August 22, 2017
Ed, this is a bad idea, and I really think you should reconsider. No disrespect to you, but the role should go to a Japanese actor.
— Andrew Wheeler (@Wheeler) August 21, 2017
The fan response was heard by Ed Skrein, who decided to take a stance for inclusivity by stepping down from his position, opening the role up for someone with an accurate cultural background.
In a statement made on Twitter, the actor addressed the situation stating that he was “unaware that the character in the comics was of mixed Asian heritage.” He went on to say “There has been intense conversation and understandable upset since the announcement, and I must do what I feel is right.”
In his statement, Skrein noted that it is his responsibility to make a moral judgment and that neglecting this responsibility will continue a worrying tendency in the arts, which obscures ethnic minority stories and voices.
This isn’t the first time a major production has received backlash for neglecting to represent the Asian community. Early this year, the film Ghost in the Shell received harsh criticism and ignited online discussion about Hollywood’s whitewashing of Asian roles. Criticism continued with Netflix’s recent film Death Note which adapted a Japanese manga into an American setting. Neither of those films took onboard the online criticism, deciding to continue to adapt the stories with white actors. Prior to its release, Death Note director Adam Wingard responded to criticism in an interview with Variety.
“It’s one of those things where it’s a good conversation to be having, and it wasn’t one we were really expecting,” he said. “It wasn’t until the Ghost in the Shell cracked it open [that] it became a conversation. But by then, we had already cast all of that stuff,” said Wingard. He continued “It’s not just taking a character and trying to say a white kid is a Japanese kid. It is a whole new thing. The characters are all very different and it is a different kind of experience all together.”
Skrein, however, decided to take on board the controversy, and send a message in the hopes to promote change, saying:
“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 make equal representation in the Arts a reality.”
Fans were quick to respond in support of Skrein‘s decision, praising him for taking a stance.
As a person of Asian descent: thank you for this. It’s heartening to see someone do the right thing, though it has cost you personally.
— Foo / 胡 (@AgentFoo) August 28, 2017
Has this every happened before? An actor willingly dropped a role because he recognized whitewashing was afoot?
— Rachel Joy Larris (@RachelLarris) August 28, 2017
I admit I’m not familiar w/ your work, but I will keep track now & make sure to support your roles in the future. Thank you for your stance.
— SUZANNE (@425suzanne) August 28, 2017
I hadn’t been hoping for this. I didn’t know to.
And now it’s happened.
And I never realized just how much this means to me.
Thank you ?
— Osric Chau (@OsricChau) August 28, 2017
The Hellboy reboot titled Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen is set to be directed by Neil Marshall from a screenplay by Andrew Cosby and Christopher Golden. Stranger Thing‘s David Harbour stars as the titular character in the reboot, which is set to hit screens next year.
Read the full statement from Ed Skrein below:
— Ed Skrein (@edskrein) August 28, 2017