In a lengthy statement posted to his social media accounts, Skrein explained that when he accepted the role of Major Ben Daimio, he was "unaware" that the character was "of mixed Asian heritage." In the "Hellboy" comics, Daimio is a Japanese-American former Marine who works alongside the titular hero at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.
Following news of Skrein's casting as the character, there was once again an outcry over whitewashing, which has been prevalent lately in big studio flicks like "Doctor Strange" and "Ghost in the Shell." It was an accusation the actor said he took quite seriously.
"There has been intense conversation and understandable upset since that [casting] announcement, and I must do what I feel is right," Skrein's statement 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 voices in the Arts. I feel it is important to honour and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately."
The actor also noted that he hoped his stepping down would "make a difference." It looks like it already has: studio Lionsgate has released a statement in support of Skrein, and said it will recast the role with an Asian actor.
Lionsgate's full statement said:
Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this. 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.
Mike Mignola, the creator of the "Hellboy" comics, also approved of Skrein's decision, thanking the actor on Twitter and commenting, "very nicely done."
"Hellboy," which features David Harbour ("Stranger Things") as the title star, is currently slated for release sometime in 2018.