British actor Ed Skrein has withdrawn from the upcoming Hellboy reboot a week after his casting in an Asian role sparked outcries of whitewashing.
In a lengthy post on his social media channels, Skrein said he accepted the role of Ben Daimio unaware of the character’s Asian heritage. Daimio is Japanese-American in the Hellboy comics the films are based on. Critics said Skrein’s casting was just the latest instance of an Asian or Asian-American role being handed to a white actor.
“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,” wrote Skrein. “I feel it is important to honour and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately.”
The backlash followed previous controversies including the castings of Emma Stone as a half-Hawaiian, half-Chinese Air Force pilot in Cameron Crowe’s Aloha and Scarlett Johansson as the cyborg protagonist in the Japanese anime remake Ghost in the Shell. Last week’s Netflix release, the Japanese manga adaptation Death Note also drew criticism for transferring a Japanese story to Seattle without any Asian actors (even if it was a pretty enjoyable show).
Producers of Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen said they fully supported Skrein’s “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,” said Larry Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Lionsgate and Millennium Films in a joint statement.