— Ed Skrein (@edskrein) August 28, 2017
Ed Skrein tweeted Monday, August 28, 2017, that “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.” Skrein is a British-born actor of English and Austrian Jewish heritage.
Hollywood has a long history of whitewashing, or casting white actors in roles that would better fit actors who are POC (Persons of Color). Only in the Saturday morning cartoon The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan has the role of Charlie Chan been played by a Chinese actor. All other versions of Charlie Chan have been played by white actors. Katherine Hepburn played Jade Tan, a Chinese woman in Dragon Seed. John Wayne played Genghis Khan in The Conqueror. Justin Catwin played Goku in Dragonball: Evolution. Jim Sturgess played Hae-Joo Chang in Cloud Atlas. “The Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity, a study released by Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, reported that “only 28.3% of all speaking characters across 414 films, television and digital episodes in 2014-15 were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. This is 9.6% below the U.S. population norm of 37.9%.” As for able-bodied actors playing characters with physical disabilities, the statistics are even worse, according to Danny Woodburn. Woodburn is not only an actor (Carl the Gnome in Special Unit 2, Mickey in Seinfeld, Grimm in Mirror Mirror), but Co-Vice-Chair on the SAG-AFTRA Performers With Disability Committee and a member of the National Advisory Board ReelAbilities Film Festival.
Last year, Ming-na Wen complained of Scarlett Johannson being cast as Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell. George Takei and Rebecca Sun complained about Englishwoman Tilda Swinton being cast as the Ancient One, a role that belongs to a Tibetan man in canon.
Nothing against Scarlett Johansson. In fact, I'm a big fan. But everything against this Whitewashing of Asian role.? https://t.co/VS6r6iish9
— Ming-Na Wen (@MingNa) April 14, 2016
“All the arguments in the world don’t change the fact that Hollywood offers very few roles to Asian actors, and when one comes along, they hire a white actor to do it, for whatever the reasons. Until that mindset can change, and the studios do something to stop this practice (Remember The Last Airbender? Aloha?) I will continue to speak out. And incidentally, there are many ways to write non-stereotypical roles these days, even out of existing portrayals. Casting an Asian actor in an Asian role that was once stereotypical but is now nuanced and developed–now that would be a welcome development.” George Takei
The Mary Sue said Skrein’s “statement not only acknowledges the damage of this individual casting, but points to the larger responsibility of those in the creative arts to promote inclusivity. We only hope that Hellboy and Hollywood listen.”
Producers Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin are listening to both Skrein and the many Hellboy fans who protested a
white actor in an Asian role. “We fully support his unselfish decision. 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.” Krypton Radio salutes Ed Skrein for putting his principles ahead of his career. It’s not an easy decision for an actor to step away from a juicy role. We at Krypton Radio can’t help wondering if Skrein will be cast in another role in Hellboy, so he’s not losing too much money for taking a stand against whitewashing. Mike Mignola, creator of the Hellboy comic book, complimented Ed Skrein for his decision.
— Mike Mignola (@artofmmignola) August 28, 2017