Captain Ben Daimio is a comic book character from Hellboy and Bureau for paranormal Research and Defense. Daimio is described throughout the series he appears in as a U.S. Marine with distinctive facial trauma “including a gaping tear in his left cheek and missing left ear.”
He is also described as Japanese-American.
Hellboy is currently being rebooted with an expected release date sometime in 2018. It is being directed by Neil Marshall with David Harbour cast as the title character.
It was announced last week that Major Ben Daimio would be portrayed by Ed Skrein, who is recognizable for his roles in Game of Thrones and Deadpool.
Ed Skrein is white.
The backlash to Skrein’s casting was immediate and intense.
His “casting follows similar recent controversies in which white actors have been set for roles originally portrayed by people of Asian descent. Scarlett Johansson’s casting as a Japanese human-cyborg in Ghost in the Shell caused an uproar earlier this year, as did Tild Swinton’s role as the Ancient one in Doctor Strange.”
The history of whitewashing characters of color is as long as the history of film and television itself and runs simultaneously with the history of painting white people yellow (or brown, or black) and casting them not as white versions of characters of color, but as tasteless and offensive caricatures of those characters.
In light of the backlash, Ed Skrein announced early Tuesday that he was withdrawing from the Hellboy project.
Lionsgate Studios put out a statement about the event: “Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this. We fully support his unselfish decision. It was not our intent to be insensitive to issues of authentiticy and ethnicity, and we will look to recast the part with an actor more consistent with the character in the source material.”
Skrein put out his own statement on his social media pages detailing his decision.
“Last week it was announced that I would be playing Major Ben Daimio in the upcoming HELLBOY reboot. 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. I feel it is important to honour and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately.
“Representation of ethnic diversity is important, especially to me as I have a mixed heritage family. 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.
“With love and hope,
Hellboy’s creator Mike Mignola responded on Twitter by thanking Skrein and stating: “Very nicely done.”
Others have responded in similar fashions, including Riz Ahmed who Tweeted: “Respect to @edskrein for setting the example & reminding us progress requires sacrifice & representation is collective responsibility.”