Neil Marshall’s Hellboy movie was off to such a good start (after a somewhat rocky beginning that made it look as if the franchise was unceremoniously whisked out of Guillermo del Toro’s hands). Each new cast addition was more exciting than the last — until a character of color was whitewashed, and all hell(boy) broke loose.

A week ago, Deadpool big bad Ed Skrein was cast as Major Ben Daimio, a canonically Japanese-American character who joined up with the B.P.R.D. after a run-in with a Bolivian jaguar-god. The problem with this is that Ed Skrein is, obviously, not Japanese-American. The whole thing caused fans of the comics and the Internet in general to all heave a big sigh of “For god’s sake, not this again,” and the backlash was so great that those involved in Hellboy heard it loud and clear. Including Skrein himself who, after some careful thought on the matter, decided to step down from the role.

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 feel it is important to honour and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately.

You can read his full statement below:

It’s unfortunate that a move like this is so unprecedented. Ideally, whenever a casting mistake like this is made and fans are suitably up-in-arms about it, those involved can backtrack, re-cast, and start again from the beginning, and we won’t end up with a disaster like this year’s Ghost in the Shell. And especially when you have a character like Daimio, whose heritage does come into play later on in his narrative, wouldn’t the filmmakers want to stick as closely to his appearance in the comics as possible? If anything, casting a Japanese-American actor for the role should be easier.

The bottom line is: representation in all art is vital, and when you have a character who is canonically a certain ethnicity, especially when that ethnicity comes into play later on, it’s better to cast according to that than any other reason a studio may have. Good for Skrein, and good for the Hellboy movie. We can’t wait to see who actually gets cast as Daimio.

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