The news of a Hellboy reboot has left the fandom and fans of the very popular films curious at what the next era of Hellboy would bring. However, the news around this reboot took an interesting turn when actor Ed Skrein announced his departure from the Hellboy reboot. His exit follows many claims that the character he was going to play, Major Ben Daimio (who is of mixed Asian heritage), was being whitewashed.
On Monday, Aug. 28, Skrein tweeted out a personal statement to explain, in his own words, why he left the project. It would appear that it was his decision to leave the project following some personal reflection. A portion of Skrein's personal statement is particularly illuminating on his reason for leaving the role of Major Ben Daimio.
"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 feels it is important to honour and respect that."
Since the news was announced on Monday afternoon, there was an immediate positive reaction to the news. Notable initial praise came from Hellboy reboot director Mike Mignola. Mignola tweeted out a link a Variety article breaking the news of Skrein's departure, commenting, "[T]hank you, @edskrein [.] [V]ery nicely done...".
Producers Larry Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Millennium and Lionsgate also released a statement to The Hollywood Reporter in support of Skrein's 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."
Skrein's full statement reads:
What makes this story more intriguing still is the fact that this move seems arguably unprecedented. Skrein appears to have arrived at the decision on his own to depart over concerns his casting was whitewashing a crucial role. It is praiseworthy that Skrein admitted he was unaware of the implications of his casting when it was initially announced, but decided to step back after understanding this was not a character that he could or perhaps should portray. The recognition that it would be problematic, as a man who presents white, to play Major Ben Daimio is something we rarely see when concerns over white actors being cast as characters of color are raised.
Skrein's casting was announced a mere week before the news of his departure broke. During the time of the initial announcement, immediate concerns were raised because the character Skrein would be playing was a character from the Hellboy comics who was clearly written as an Asian man. There was criticism of the casting decision to the point that people began invoking the whitewashing casting controversies of Doctor Strange and Ghost in the Shell, two other films where notable and canonically Asian characters were played by white actors.
Now, it looks like Skrein may have pushed the conversation into a new direction with his actions. By stepping away from this role, he has opened up the floor for an Asian actor to rightfully step into the role of Major Ben Daimio for the Hellboy reboot. Let's hope that the casting department on the reboot follows Skrein's example and casts the role accordingly.