Daniel Dae Kim (a.k.a. Jin-Soo Kwon from Lost and Chin Ho Kelly from Hawaii Five-O) is reportedly in talks to take over the role that Game of Thrones actor Ed Skrein turned down due to accusations of whitewashing—but fans aren’t quite sure how to feel about it.
In late August, it was initially announced that Skrein—who you might know as the villain Ajax from Deadpool, or Daario Naharis in Season 3 of Game of Thrones—would be playing Major Ben Daimio in the latest film adaptation of the Hellboy comics. The character is a Japanese-American U.S. marine who returned from the dead under “mysterious circumstances”; Skrein, on the other hand, is of Jewish-Austrian and British descent.
— Ed Skrein (@edskrein) August 21, 2017
Fans of Hellboy were outraged, though not surprised, by yet another example of #castingsowhite, where POC characters (and particularly Asian characters) are cast with white actors when on the big screen. Think: Emma Stone playing Allison Ng, a woman of Hawaiian and Asian descent, in Aloha; or Scarlett Johansson playing Japanese character Major Motoko Kusangi in Ghost in the Shell; or Netflix’s latest live-action rendition of anime TV series Death Note, where Nat Wolff plays Japanese high school student Light Yagami.
You’re a talented actor; why would you take away a role from an Asian colleague?
— Heautontimoroumenos (@paulengelhard) August 22, 2017
So when Skrein took to Twitter on Aug. 28, in a largely unprecedented move, announced that he was stepping away from the role, it was a Really. Big. Deal.
— Ed Skrein (@edskrein) August 28, 2017
“Last week it was announced that I would be playing Major Ben Daimio in the upcoming HELLBOY reboot,” Skrein wrote to his followers. “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,” he continued. “I feel it is important to honour and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately.”
With the recent recasting news, many are applauding Skrein on Twitter for moving aside to make room for actors like Kim, promoting better representation in Hollywood.
This is absolutely amazing. A white actor used his privilege and social media to unwhitewash an Asian role.
— RAFAEL CASAL (@RafaelCasal) September 12, 2017
— Jordan Crucchiola (@JorCru) September 11, 2017
An Asian American character will be played by an actual Asian American actor? That’s wild! https://t.co/lrs1WaYARP
— Angry Asian Man (@angryasianman) September 12, 2017
Daniel Dae Kim? Superb choice. Didn’t have to search too hard for him did you, Hollywood? DO. YOUR. HOMEWORK.
— Victoria Chen (@viktxria) September 13, 2017
Some fans are also calling this news a big victory for Kim, who recently left Hawaii Five-O with costar Grace Park over contract disputes with CBS when the two actors sought equal pay as their colleagues Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan.
— Lacy Wright (@LacyLewWright) September 11, 2017
While casting Kim in Hellboy would be a step in the right direction for bringing more diversity to Hollywood, social media users point out that casting a Korean-American actor for a Japanese-American character is still problematic.
Problem fixed? The character is Japanese, yet Daniel Dae Kim is Korean. They’re far from fixing the problem. PoC aren’t interchangeable
— . | #SENSE8ISBACK (@meezus_christ) September 11, 2017
Daniel Dae Kim is Korean American. Are we to take it that any Asian actor can play an Asian character? Is it just ‘good enough’?
— Thug Yoda on the (@rantazmo1) September 12, 2017
Look, I get it. Y’all cast an Asian American. But Ben Daimio is JAPANESE AMERICAN and Daniel Dae Kim is KOREAN AMERICAN.
— Alex Brown (@QueenOfRats) September 11, 2017
The latest official news is that Kim is “in talks” for the Hellboy role, but if his IMDB page is any indication, he is most definitely going to be the new Ben Daimio—in addition to his continued role as an advocate for diversity in Hollywood.