Ed Skrein Praised for Dropping 'Hellboy' Role After Whitewashing Criticism
Ed Skrein took a definitive stand against whitewashing in Hollywood by stepping down from his role in Hellboy recently.
The British actor, perhaps best known for his portrayal of villain Ajax in last year’s blockbuster Deadpool, was met with praise from fans for his decision. He explained his reasoning in a poignant post to Twitter Monday.
“Last week it was announced that I would be playing Major Ben Daimio in the upcoming HELLBOY reboot,” he wrote. “I accepted the role unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage. There has been intense conversation and understandable upset since that announcement, and I must do what I feel is right.”
“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,” he continued. “I feel it is important to honor and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately.”
Riz Ahmed, who rose to prominence stateside with last year’s suspenseful The Night Of, was among those who applauded Skrein for his stance, writing, “Respect to @edskrein for setting the example & reminding us progress requires sacrifice & representation is collective responsibility.”
— Riz Ahmed (@rizmc) August 29, 2017
In the recent past, actors including Scarlett Johansson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Matt Damon and Tilda Swinton have come under fire for portraying iconic characters who were Asian in the source material, but ultimately played by white actors. A hashtag, “#StarringJohnCho,” went viral in spring 2016 in response to the industry’s slew of whitewashing films, with the actor’s image superimposed as the lead actor on several well-known movie posters.
Skrein’s departure from Hellboy marks the first time an actor has dropped a high-profile project in response to public criticism of whitewashing.
“Representation of ethnic diversity is important, especially to me as I have a mixed heritage family,” Skrein wrote in his post Monday. “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 help make equal representation in the Arts a reality. I am sad to leave Hellboy but if this decision brings us closer to that day, it is worth it. I hope it makes a difference.”
Hellboy producers Larry Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Millennium and Lionsgate released a statement Monday backing up Skrein’s decision. “Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this,” the statement reads, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”