Ed Skrein Steps Down From “Hellboy” After Whitewashing Controversy
So in case you haven’t heard, British actor Ed Skrein has stepped down from the reboot of Hellboy where he was set to play the role of Asian-American Major Ben Daimio. Of course, because he is a white actor that originally signed on to play an Asian role, this led to outcries against the whitewashed casting decision. But already, Skrein has decided to take a stand and bow out of the project, writing a long tweet explaining his reasoning for dropping out in the process.
Ed Skrein stepping down is not only an admirable decision but a game-changing decision as well.
When Caucasian actors controversially take on roles intended for people of color; Tilda Swinton playing a Tibetan character named The Ancient One in Doctor Strange, Rooney Mara taking on the role of Native American Tiger Lily in Pan, Scarlett Johansson playing a Japanese woman named Maj. Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost In The Shell and so on, the outcries of these casting decisions tend to fall on deaf ears as the actors still collect the check and sign on anyway.
Inevitably, Mara, Swinton, and Johansson were asked about the whitewashing controversy when promoting their respective films.
Rooney Mara said in an interview with The Telegraph how she hated to be in the whitewashing conversation but still gave a dry “Yeah, diversity is important”-type response. In an email exchange with Margaret Cho, Tilda Swinton admirably wanted to engage in a conversation about inclusivity yet still felt the need to ask Cho why people were so upset about her being cast in an Asian role. When Scarlett Johansson did an interview with Marie Claire, like Mara, she gave a straight forward “We should celebrate diversity” response but still said she would “never presume to play another race of a person” even though she clearly did.
It’s one thing for these actresses to SAY that diversity is important. But actions speak much louder than words and Skrein made the right move by stepping down so that a Japanese actor can be cast as Major Daimio. It’s also admirable because even though Skrein, who’s not exactly a marquee name, could’ve gotten a nice payday and more exposure, he still gave it up anyhow.
Interestingly, Scarlett Johansson already has plenty of exposure and has the luxury to say “No” to whatever she is offered yet even after the controversy of her signing on, she still went along anyhow. If her “Diversity is important” comments really were true, she could’ve signed on as a producer on Ghost In The Shell and casted an Asian woman as the lead. In the aforementioned Marie Claire interview, Johansson emphasized the importance of starring in a female-led franchise and how her decision to sign on was based on gender and not race. Yes, I do believe there should be more female-driven franchises. But what gender does she think Asian women fall under?
Now, do I think people like Johansson, Swinton, or Mara are hateful human beings for playing roles that aren’t meant for them? No. But I do think that if they deeply care about representation, then they need to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk like Skrein.
Lastly, I just want to say it is not my intention to tear down the three talented actresses I have mentioned. What I am only doing is being critical of them talking about the importance of diversity only for their words to contradict their decision to inappropriately tackle the roles they have played. Again, actions speak much louder than words and hopefully, Ed Skrein bowing out will influence other Caucasian actors to do the same thing if they are offered roles intended for ethnic actors.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on Ed Skrein stepping down in the comments section. Thanks for reading!