According to the Hollywood Reporter, Neil Marshall’s Hellboy has found its Captain Ben Daimio: Hawaii Five-O’s Daniel Dae Kim. The role was original set to be played by Deadpool’s Ed Skrein, but after accusations of whitewashing, the English actor nobly resigned from the production. In the comics, Daimio is a Japanese-American member of the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense), a secret government organization that investigates and wards off paranormal and supernatural entities.
Although the announcement of Kim in the role appears to be a win for Asian actors, the decision reflects a troubling Asians-are-interchangeable mentality in Hollywood productions because Kim is Korean-American, not Japanese-American. For example, in 2005, Columbia Pictures cast Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi in the starring role of Memoirs of a Geisha, an adaptation of Arthur Golden’s novel. Columbia Pictures ignored the cultural and historical significance of geishas to Japanese culture. In another example of whitewashing in 2015, white actress Emma Stone starred in Cameron Crowe‘s Aloha as Allison Ng, a character of Chinese and native Hawaiian descent. Both films received criticism for their culturally-insensitive casting decisions.
Kim, Ziyi, and Stone are all talented actors; however, the studio system’s attempt to appease and often ignore Asian viewers reflects their inability (or unwillingness) to understand the importance of racially representative casting. It remains to be seen if Kim’s casting will inspire additional social media backlash.