Actor Ed Skrein — who had faced internet backlash last week or being cast to play a Japanese American character in the upcoming “Hellboy” reboot — announced earlier today that he had approached “Hellboy” producers with strong concerns, and that the actor had ultimately decided to withdraw from the project to make room for a Japanese American actor to fill the role.
In a thoughtful statement posted to Twitter, Skrein said he felt that he needed to “do what I feel is right.”
Here is the full text of the statement:
Pay attention, Emma Stone, Scarlett Johansson, and Tilda Swinton: this is how an actor should deal with being cast in a whitewashed role. Skrein exhibits no kneejerk defensiveness and no bizarre equivocations; instead, Skrein acknowledges that he was initially ignorant of the issue, that upon learning of the concerns he agreed that his casting is problematic, and that he has both the privilege and the responsibility to step aside and make way for producers to make a better casting decision. Of course, the problem here ultimately lay with the producers and casting directors of “Hellboy”, and not with the actors, but Skrein demonstrates that actors who find themselves in whitewashed roles can still take a powerful step to push-back against the erasure of non-white characters.
In an ideal future, characters would not be carelessly whitewashed by filmmakers. In an ideal future, it would not fall upon internet netizens to call out seriously problematic casting decisions made by major Hollywood studios — which have to go through several rounds of approval before they are announced. In an ideal future, the casting of actors of colour to play character of colour would not be an anathema, and it would not be the responsibility of communities of colour to point that out. But until then, Skrein’s withdrawal from “Hellboy” is a positive step in the right direction.
Skrein’s withdrawal should pay off. His announcement has already been retweeted nearly 24,000 times, with most replies to the tweet overwhelmingly positive. “Hellboy” star David Harbour lauded Skrein for the decision in his own tweet:
The Hollywood Reporter also reproduced a portion of a statement from “Hellboy” producers Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin, as well as from studios Millennium and Lionsgate, saying:
No word yet as to the fate of “Hellboy” Executive Producer Christa Campbell, who briefly tweeted the exact wrong things to say in the wake of being called out for whitewashing.
Nonetheless, Skrein should be commended for doing the right thing and for stepping down from the “Hellboy” project. He should further be commended for doing so publicly, and in a way that will hold “Hellboy” producers accountable for the steps they take going forward.
I for one will be more interested in supporting Skrein as an actor in his future projects in the wake of this decision, and I look forward with interest to see how “Hellboy” producers recast the role of Major Ben Daimio.
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