Ed Skrein (Deadpool) just made a bold move with regards to white actors taking on non-white roles. The actor was previously cast in the upcoming Hellboy reboot to play Major Ben Daimio, a character who is Japanese-American descent. There was an outcry on social media about white actors continuing to play non-white roles when there are plenty of talented non-white actors out there who would happily play characters who share their ethnicity.
For his part, Skrein says he was unaware of the character’s origin, and when he discovered that Daimio was Japanese-American, he decided to bow out of the role. In a statement, Skrein said:
“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 voice in the Arts. I feel it is important to honour and respect that. There 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 more 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.”
That’s a really impressive thing for Skrein to do. He could have kept his head down and tried to make excuses. It’s also not like he’s an A-list actor with his choice of projects. He’s a rising star, but it’s not like people are rushing to cast the villain from Deadpool. This is a role in a high-profile film that he gave up because it should have gone to an actor of Japanese descent.
While one could argue that he’s dodging a firestorm and he should have known that playing a character with the last name “Daimio” was Asian, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. It’s also worth noting that Skrein has now made it clear that actors have a personal responsibility when taking on these kinds of roles. They’re not hapless victims who happened to be involved in whitewashing. They can walk away if they want, and Skrein has. Good for him.
Here’s his full statement: