Film Forward

This Actor Just Gave Up A Whitewashed Movie Role And Set An Important Example For Hollywood

"I hope it makes a difference."

Ed Skrein isn't the first White actor to be cast to play a non-White character, but he set a positive example this week that will hopefully lead to less Hollywood whitewashing in the future.

Skrein, an English actor and rapper who previously starred in Deadpool and The Transporter: Refueled, recently announced that he had been cast to play Major Ben Daimio in the upcoming film Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen. The news was met with backlash, as the character in the original comics is of Asian heritage.

While this could have been yet another instance of Hollywood's continued whitewashing problem, it turned out very differently on Monday when Skrein took to social media to announce that he would be dropping out of the role. He also penned an eloquent explanation that's earning praise and being hailed as an example of the right thing for an actor to do when faced with such a controversy.

"I accepted the role unaware that the character in the comics was of mixed Asian heritage," Skrein admitted in the post, which was shared on both Twitter and Instagram. "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 characer 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 honour and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately."

He added that diverse representation is important to him, explaining that he has "a mixed heritage family," and calling it his "responsibility" to make such decisions in order to "give voice to inclusivity."

"It is my hope that one day these discussions will become less necessary and that we can make equal representation in the Arts a reality," he concluded. "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."

The post has received tens of thousands of retweets and a number of positive responses from fans and industry insiders. Fellow actor Riz Ahmed, for example, sent his "respect" to Skrein "for setting the example and reminding us progress requires sacrifice & representation is collective responsibility."

Others called him a "class act" and shared the hope that his decision will inspire other actors to make similar sacrifices in the future so that eventually whitewashing can become a thing of the past.

It sounds like Skrein's decision will at least have an impact on one movie. Hellboy producers Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin gave a statement to Deadline with Lionsgate and Millennium responding to the actor's announcement, and shared that they're taking a new approach to recasting the role.

"Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this. We fully support his unselfish decision," they said. "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."

Cover image via Instagram

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of โ€” and throughout โ€” the month.

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