English actor Ed Skrein—who you know as Ajax in Deadpool and Daario Naharis in Game of Thrones—is opting out of a role as Major Ben Daimio in the forthcoming Hellboy reboot after fans of the OG comic accused the film of whitewashing.
In a statement shared via Twitter on Monday, Skrein said he initially accepted the role unaware of his character’s “mixed Asian heritage,” but feels he “must do what’s 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,” he wrote. “I feel it is important to honour and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately.”
While producers Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin have since issued a follow-up statement in support of Skrein’s decision, they gave vague guarantee that the concerns would be given absolute consideration.
“Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this. We fully support his unselfish decision,” they said in a statement to Deadline. “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.”
If they follow through, it would be a noteworthy decision for Hollywood. Earlier this year, Ghost in the Shell—which cast Scarlett Johansson as Motoku Kusanagi, who appeared in the original Japanese manga—stirred similar controversy. “Apparently, in Hollywood, Japanese people can’t play Japanese people anymore,” Robert Chan, president of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), said in March. “There’s no reason why either Motoku or Hideo could not have been portrayed by Japanese or Asian actors instead of Scarlett Johansson and Michael Pitt. We don’t even get to see what they looked like in their original human identities — a further whitewash.”
In 2016, MANAA also called out Doctor Strange‘s casting of Tilda Swinton as “The Ancient One,” who was written as a Tibetan male in the comic book.
So will the producers get it right?
Read Skrein’s full statement below: