Last week it was announced that Ed Skrein would be filling the role of Ben Daimio in the upcoming Hellboy reboot. Critics were quick to point out that Daimio is canonically Japanese-American; Hollywood was continuing its tradition of whitewashing by casting Skrein instead of an Asian actor.
Whitewashing has been a popular topic recently—this year alone we’ve seen examples of whitewashing in Ghost in the Shell, and in Netflix’s Deathnote. Last year’s big offender came from Marvel’s Doctor Strange, and before that it was Aloha in 2015.
Skrein was excited to have been offered the part originally, but now we know he’ll be stepping away from the role:
— Ed Skrein (@edskrein) August 28, 2017
Although the responsibility for whitewashing doesn’t solely fall on the actor, this move by Skrein is refreshing. A study released last year by the University of Southern California found that only 5.1% of speaking or named characters in 2014 were Asian. Additionally, they found that “Over 50% of stories featured no Asian speaking characters”. In a climate where there a shortage of Asian roles it’s doubly unfair not to cast Asian actors for those parts. As Skrein says, it is important to “give voice to inclusivity”.
“Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this. We fully support his unselfish decision,” Millennium and Lionsgate say in a statement published by The Hollywood Reporter. “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.” Let’s hope that they do.
Now that Skrein is out, let’s take a closer look at Ben Daimio from the comics. Then we can have some fun and take a few stabs at recasting him.
Daimio is a former Marine Captain, Green Beret, and a government special ops agent who becomes a Field Team Commander for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (“B.P.R.D” for short). He first appears in B.P.R.D.: The Dead #1.
When we meet Daimio for the first time his scars are at the forefront. Although not mentioned right away, he had suffered injuries while facing a monster and died. Three days later, much to the pathologists surprise, Daimio cut his way out of the body bag just before an autopsy was about to begin. He healed quickly and was soon reassigned to special ops. Originally he took interest in the B.P.R.D. as a means of helping to understand how and why he came back from the dead.
We find later on that his grandmother, Yumiko Daimio, was a Japanese Imperial spy and assassin during World War II. Her moniker was Crimson Lotus. She had gleaned some paranormal talents from books on witchcraft, including the ability to absorb energy and turn into smoke.
During WWII the Crimson Lotus was infamously known for torturing and killing hundreds of American troops. She later had a son who was raised in California, served in the United States military, and then became father to Ben Daimio during his second marriage.
Daimio himself is quick to action and gets sarcastic when he’s under stress. Being a former soldier means that he knows his way around guns and he doesn’t hesitate to use them. He doesn’t have a problem with occasionally sassing his team, but really, who doesn’t like sassing their coworkers from time to time?
Dacascos is definitely another one of those picks that I was pretty jazzed about. I can hear some of you now going “wait, the Chairman from Iron Chef?” and let me stop you right there. He plays Giyera on Agents of SHIELD. He’s a reoccurring baddie in the Hawaii Five-0 reboot. He’s been in Mortal Kombat: Legacy, Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight, and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Saturn Awards for Brotherhood of the Wolf. Although Daimio is more of a gun guy, he’s still a Marine and special operative. Dacascos being skilled in several styles of martial arts would be a big plus.
Lewis Tan has been crushing it in Hollywood for a decade now—you likely know him as Luke Nakano from the Hawaii Five-0 reboot, or Jiro Farnwell from 10,000 Days. More recently he portrayed Zhou Cheng from Marvel’s Iron Fist, although he was considered for the role of Danny Rand. (We’re still a bit salty he didn’t get that role instead). Tan is also an accomplished martial artist who does a lot of his own stunt work which would make him a great contender for Daimio.
While everyone else is zigging, let’s zag for a bit. Why not flip Daimio’s gender? Of the 5.1% of roles held by Asians, only about a third of them are held by women. Let’s indulge and imagine these leading ladies as Daimio.
Grace Park is a force to be reckoned with. She’s arguably best known for her roles in various Battlestar Galactica series, but more recently she’s been kicking major butt in Hawaii Five-0 as Officer Kono Kalākaua. Park has also starred in several Canadian shows such as The Border and Edgemont. She’s been gracing our screens (pun unintended) for two decades now, and would make a stellar Daimio.
Rinko Kikuchi is a Japanese actress with over twenty years of acting experience. You’ll know her from her principle role as Mako Mori in Pacific Rim, or as Mizuki the Witch from 47 Ronin. She also was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars for the film Babel. Her portrayal of Chieko Wataya garnered international attention and it’s been uphill from there. Kikuchi has over 40 films under her belt and would assuredly bring Daimio to life.