In a somewhat unprecedented move, former Game of Thrones actor Ed Skrein announced he was leaving the planned Hellboy reboot. His exit from the reboot stems from initial concerns voiced a week before in which it was noted that the character he would play, Major Ben Daimio, in the reboot was being whitewashed. In the original comics, Ben Daimio is an Asian character, while Skrein is a white man. Skrein’s departure from the film is now being widely praised, and in combination with his personal statement on his choice is being held up as an example of how white actors can actively combat whitewashing by refusing to play roles meant for actors of color; it’s a big step forward for Hollywood.
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Skrein’s statement indicates that he arrived at the decision to leave the Hellboy reboot on his own (versus being actively pushed out by another party) and it came after listening to the comments and concerns about a white man playing an Asian character and better researching the character he would have been playing.
One passage is particularly enlightening and reinforces that what Skrein is doing in incredibly important, especially when it comes to white actors recognizing their privilege and using it for good.
— Ed Skrein (@edskrein) August 28, 2017
“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,” he wrote. He then went on to explain why he believes representation is key in the arts and why it matters that Ben Daimio, an Asian character in the Hellboy comics, is played by an Asian actor when he is brought to the big screen in the Hellboy reboot.
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Skrein’s move garnered immediate and widespread praise, with people of color responding positively to his actions. Actors Riz Ahmed (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and John Cho (Star Trek) were among the more famous people of color showing love for Skrein’s decision to step down.
Respect to @edskrein for setting the example & reminding us progress requires sacrifice & representation is collective responsibility 👊🏽👏🏽 https://t.co/ExXDedgDFB
— Riz Ahmed (@rizmc) August 29, 2017
So basically upon knowing better Ed Skrein just… did better … it's a whole concept
— Sydette is gonna go actually help (@Blackamazon) August 28, 2017
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I wanna work with @edskrein.
— John Cho (@JohnTheCho) August 29, 2017
Skrein’s decision feels like a step in the right direction when it comes to actively fighting against characters of color being whitewashed in Hollywood, particularly Asian characters. There have been other recent instances of whitewashing Asian roles in films like Doctor Strange and Ghost in the Shell, and Skrein’s casting could have followed suit. However, his exit feels like the right decision and one that could hopefully begin a positive trend in Hollywood.
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