In an interesting turn of events, Ed Skrein, who was originally set to star in Hellboy, backed out of his role this summer because of his character’s mixed-Asian decent. Now, I’m upset that not enough people are talking about this. Hollywood is known for casting white actors in place for roles that are for people of color. However, Ed Skrein is the only actor, that I’ve heard of at least, that has declined a role because of this reason.
This is big news because of how rare it is. We’ve seen actors and actresses with amazing, prolific careers ignore whitewashing and accept a role that a person of color deserves. Earlier this year, Scarlett Johansson played main character Major Mira Killian, adapted from the Japanese manga series Ghost in the Shell. The movie barely saw any profit, less than 70 million made in its entire box office career. Matt Damon starred in the Great Wall, a movie literally about a white man leading a gigantic Chinese army against monsters attacking the grand fortress. Most recently, Netflix released Death Note, starring Nat Wolff, another adaptation of a popular Japanese manga.
Talking about Death Note for a moment, back in 2015, when Nat Wolff was announced as the film’s lead, Light, there were obviously mixed responses. One came from up and coming actor, Edward Zo, who was denied the opportunity to even audition for the same role. Why? Because he was “too Asian.” Here is his story below:
Something he said really stuck with me. “Hey, your story is really cool. Everything about this story is awesome, except you,” he said, when explaining what whitewashing feels like. What directors are doing is taking away the authenticity of a story. You don’t see white actors playing slaves, it’s not their story to tell. Manga, a style of Japanese comics, is quintessentially Japanese. Not white. What you get are stories that stay with Japanese adults and kids alike. Why take that essential part away in the movie version?
What I just talked about are just actors stealing roles from Asian, more specifically Japanese, actors. I could show hundreds of examples of Hollywood whitewashing. Some older movies even use blackface and yellowface instead of just hiring people of color. What all these movies have in common nowadays are their social media outcry based on their faulty casting. I hope that Skrein’s decision and the obvious negative effects it has on a movie’s reviews will deter Hollywood from whitewashing in the future.