You can call it karma, or you can call it justice. In any case, Daniel Dae Kim confirmed Wednesday (Sept. 13) that he has signed on to play the Japanese American character in the reboot of Hellboy.
Kim takes over the role that was originally given to Ed Skrein, the white actor who voluntarily stepped aside so that a culturally appropriate actor could play the role of Major Ben Daimio, a rugged military member of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense who, due to a supernatural encounter, can turn into a jaguar when angered or in pain.
The character is Japanese American in the Hellboy comics by creator Mike Mignola.
In August, Skrein was cast in the part but, after an outcry over whitewashing an Asian American character, made the morally courageous and unprecedented decision to step down later that month.
“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 voice in the Arts. I feel it is important to honor and respect that,” Skrein said in a statement at the time.
In his statement, Kim now says, “I’m excited to confirm that I’ve officially joined the cast of Hellboy. We start shooting today (Sept. 13) and I’ll be playing Ben Daimio, alongside our very talented cast, headed by David Harbour, and director, Neil Marshall. Thank you for all the supportive tweets and comments, especially in light of the recent events surrounding its original casting.”
In a statement, Kim said: “I applaud the producers and, in particular, Ed Skrein for championing the notion that Asian characters should be played by Asian or Asian-American actors,” said Kim. “He could not have addressed the issue more elegantly and I remain indebted to him for his strength of character.”
Skrein announced his decision on Twitter in August, noting that while he was “sad” to not be part of the film, he wanted to help bring positive change to representation in Hollywood.
“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,” Skrein wrote.
Earlier this year, Kim and co-star Grace Park stepped away from their roles earlier because they were unable to get salaries comparable to their white co-stars in Hawaii Five-0. Considering how rare Asian/American actors get meaty roles, Kim made it clear that part of his decision to leave the successful TV series was based on the principal of equity.
CBS denied that race had anything to do with the difficult contract negotiations with the Korean/American actors.
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