This month’s Hellboy reboot features a handful of characters that are new the franchise. But perhaps the most prominent is Ben Daimio, the cursed ex-Marine who undergoes stress-induced transformations into a supernatural jaguar. Daniel Dae Kim, best known for his TV work on Lost and Hawaii Five-0, portrays Ben in the new film. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Kim explained what attracted him to the role in the first place. Additionally, he shared what he hopes to bring to the superhero genre as a whole.
In Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics, Ben’s most distinguishing feature is a scar running down the left side of his face. According to Kim, the character’s self-consciousness about his mangled visage reminded the actor of his own childhood struggles.
“[Daimio] carries with him a great deal of shame because of his appearance, and that’s something I could relate to as a young Asian-American boy growing up in America,” Kim said. “One year I dressed up like Elvis for Halloween, and I remember kids saying, ‘You can’t be Elvis. I used to love superheroes when I was younger, but I never felt like I could actually be that superhero while playing with my friends, because that superhero didn’t look like me.”
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Kim also found a way to compare Ben’s beastly metamorphoses to the experiences of his formative years. “I feel like the parallel for Daimio and his pent up rage is very akin to what I felt as that minority kid growing up,” said Kim. “There was never an outlet for that kind of rage… We were always taught to just eat bitter, as they say, to just swallow all of your anger. But, it’s this kind of bottling up that can manifest itself in crazy ways. And for Daimio, this jaguar is the release of all of those feelings.”
Of course, Kim’s involvement with Hellboy almost never came to pass. Deadpool’s Ed Skrein was originally hired to play Ben in 2017. However, after fans took issue with Skrein playing a Japanese-American character, the actor willingly withdrew from the film. Kim stepped into the role shortly after he left Hawaii Five-0 over a well-publicized salary dispute. Kim went on to express his gratitude to Skrein for taking action.
“I feel like Hellboy was supposed to be my next job, given how things ended with Hawaii Five-0 and what Ed Skrein so admirably did when he exited,” said Kim. “I was incredibly grateful to Ed, and I have such respect for what he did because, as much as I can fight for diversity, it’s equally important for people like Ed, who are white and male, to understand the issue as well and take action.”
Hellboy arrives in theaters next Friday, April 12. You can share your thoughts on Kim’s remarks in the comment section below!